Preston North End goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly returns to one of his old stomping grounds tomorrow as North End take on Sheffield United at Bramall Lane
The former Republic of Ireland international – who is the son of legendary PNE keeper Alan Kelly Senior – moved to the Blades from his boyhood club North End in 1992.
After making more than 150 appearances at Deepdale, Kelly was snapped up by then United boss Dave ‘Harry’ Bassett.
He spent seven years with the Blades and enjoyed his most productive spell as a player as the club had a period in the Premier League and also won through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
A former Wimbledon manager, Bassett certainly brought an element of the ‘Crazy Gang’ spirit to United and Kelly admitted he has nothing but fond memories of his former manager and of his time at Bramall Lane.
“Harry was one on his own,” Kelly said.
“I particularly remember when we would set off on away trips on a Friday .
“He would go and slap somebody around the head and literally have a punch-up with them.
“He always lost and always ended up losing his tracksuit.
“It would end up with him sitting with just his underpants on at the front of the bus all the way down to the away game.
“But he seemed to take great pleasure in that, which was slightly worrying.
“There was a slight craziness but nothing like what was portrayed in the documentary about Wimbledon, which was on BT Sport recently.
“What we had was a bunch of players who were determined to do well and crept under the radar.
“The manager pulled together a lot of good characters and good footballers.
“For a couple of years , we did really well and then, after Harry left, the club went on a little bit of a downward spiral. But when I first went there, we were playing in the Premier League when it first started in ’92.
“So that was a fantastic experience and we always seemed to have good cup runs – as Sheffield United seem to do now. We had some fantastic ties against Arsenal, Manchester United, Blackburn, Coventry.”
Perhaps one of the biggest matches Kelly played in was the Steel City derby FA Cup semi-final in 1993.
The tie was staged at Wembley and was played in front of more than 75,000 fans.
Sheffield Wednesday won a close encounter 2-1, with Chris Waddle firing a 30-yard free-kick past Kelly in the first few seconds of the game.
Kelly said: “How do you recover from that?”
“I think there were just 60 seconds on the clock and you’re 1-0 down against Wednesday.
“But I think I managed to go on a bit of a run.
“I think they went on to have another 27 shots on goal – so I must have something right on the day.
“It was a fantastic occasion. It should have been the final but unfortunately we lost after extra-time.”
Although he will never forget his time with the Blades, Kelly’s allegiance tomorrow will certainly be with Preston – on both a professional and personal level.
“I had seven great years at Sheffield United and the seven years preceding that were at Preston,” he said.
“I was actually thinking about it the other day.
“I think I have played 400 games between both clubs.
“They were two huge parts of my career and going back to Bramall Lane will bring back loads of good memories.
“There are not too many familiar faces there now – it’s 15 years ago since I left.
“I do have some good memories of watching some decent performances from Preston at Bramall Lane in recent years as a coach.
“It’s going to be a tough game.”