Category Archives: Sport

Skip Kelly of Montpelier Villa Women Remembers The Important Things

The coffin was surrounded by dozens of family photos. I featured in only one,a chubby-cheeked youngster decked out in various items of clothing coloured blue and white to show our support for the Waterford hurling team in their quest to win their first All-Ireland Hurling title since 1959. He was born in 1960 and in the obituary I was listed as his son, but I never considered him my father. 

There were many facets of our relationship that you’d expect in a father-son relationship. I was the only one listed in the obituary that supported the same football team as him which often meant that our relationship rarely went beyond analysis of the most recent Leeds United result. 

“It doesn’t matter that we lost to Cheltenham Town because if we beat Scunthorpe United then we’re only 12 points outside the play-offs with 13 games to go,” I’d declare enthusiastically only to be met with some variation of “I’m still going to have to go to work in the morning.”  This humility was something that always irked me.  

When I received my Junior Certificate results, I was picked up by him and told that I was expected to work for his gardening business that afternoon. I stared blankly at the road in front of us as I could see my friends plan infinitely more exciting activities than cutting grass. It was the kind of humility that never caused me anger when displayed by Marcelo Bielsa when he famously insisted the Leeds United squad picked up litter for three hours.

I couldn’t help question why there weren’t more photos of me, but also what did I know about this man? I was given the opportunity to confront these questions sooner than I had anticipated with the arrival of early onset dementia. 

I knew he was stubborn, once falling off a ladder two stories high and breaking two ribs while painting but climbing up the ladder to finish the job before seeking any kind of treatment. 

I knew he enjoyed old western movies and although never expressed out loud did not have an affinity for the slick cowboys with their pistols but rather with the Indians and their measly weapons. I remember his frustration at being given a dream-catcher that “wouldn’t work” because it had the caricature of a chief’s head in the middle. An incredible piece of knowledge for someone to have who left school before gracing the doors of a secondary school but his lack of gratitude had annoyed me. It was the sort of knowledge that didn’t annoy me when inspired by The Last Dance. I read an array of books about Phil Jackson who used his knowledge of Native American culture to inspire his Chicago Bulls team to an incredible run. 

Although he enjoyed sports, he somehow knew his life wasn’t dictated by results in Yorkshire. I couldn’t disagree more and it was this perennial unspoken conflict that meant our conversations that were based solely on analysis of results waned and eventually disappeared. I visited him every Christmas when I went home out of a sense of duty. 

Although he remembered my name, he forgot how old I was, he forgot I moved, he forgot his siblings names, he forgot snippets of conversation that we just had and he even forgot he supported Leeds United. Hardly surprising considering he had never been to Elland Road and only owned one replica shirt which was a gift for his 40th birthday.

I realised it’s easy to attribute characteristics I admire to the likes of Bielsa and Phil Jackson because it suggests I found them and I don’t have to acknowledge the real source which was much closer to home. 

I was told my step-father passed away on a Saturday afternoon. I booked a flight that I could make that didn’t clash with the Bexhill game the following day. I’m still going to have to go to work in the morning. 

Dream-catchers don’t actually catch dreams but rather ward off nightmares, specifically from children. I never considered him my father, but that never stopped him from seeing me as his son. 

I don’t want to go to Chelsea

September marks 10 years since I arrived on these shores as a fresh-faced student who was determined to make it to the top. That was the only way to justify my mother’s heartbreak at leaving the homeland and my sisters’ delight at being able to have a room to themselves. 

My secondary school yearbook asked where I saw myself in 10 years time and my answer declared I would be leading the Irish national team to the 2022 World Cup or have a weekly column in the Irish Independent. I’m going to tell you why leading Montpelier Villa Women and writing for the West Hill Whistler is better (Quite right: Ed) and why Graham Potter is wrong to go to Chelsea (Also quite right: Ed). 

 I understand why Potter has gone. I understand that his career has been a series of calculated gambles both on his part and on the clubs that employed him, including his first club Östersund who played in the Swedish fourth tier who took a risk on someone who at the time was just the coach of a university football team. I understand that Potter may feel that this is justification for his seven years in Sweden and traveling to the Women’s World Cup in China in 2007. Not that either of these are something to be endured, but rather this isn’t the conventional route to one of the biggest jobs in English football and it’s hard not to be disappointed by Potter finally choosing the path expected of him. 

 I won’t be the first to describe Potter as unconventional and most will be aware of him getting his players in Sweden to perform Swan Lake and his influence or rather his reasoning of taking players out of their comfort zone reached Montpelier Villa as our players endured American football, Gaelic football, rugby and netball all to take them out of their comfort zone or in other words – make them uncomfortable. 

This September, Montpelier Villa will host the FA Cup for the first time ever and this will be the highlight of the season for many, the ability to say you competed in the same competition as some of the biggest names in the game. It won’t surprise you that my ambition for our team is to play just one match at Wembley Stadium and fortunately we find ourselves in a competition that means we are just ten wins away from that goal. 

 What I don’t understand is this move being explained as Potter being ambitious. Potter has joined a team with infinitely more resources and expectations, but he has left one of the few clubs that has slowly and sustainably built an infrastructure that can challenge the elite. 

At this point, it’s important to rule myself out of the vacant position at Brighton and it’s not for lack of ambition. It’s because I’m too ambitious. Football in my opinion is the greatest leveller and no matter the resources that any club has, no matter the perceived quality of the players on each team, if you are on the same pitch then you are in the best possible position to beat them – whoever they are. 

 Potter had all the tools available at Brighton to make the city and region a footballing hotbed akin to Barcelona or Amsterdam. I would find it hard to justify walking away from that for the chance to coach in the Champions League for a team that won it as recently as 2021. Potter was on course to bring that competition to Falmer albeit only after six games and I believe the latter would have been a far greater achievement.

I wholeheartedly believe that Montpelier Villa will walk out at Wembley on May 14th next year and I’ve been called enthusiastic, deluded, silly and stupid and I could go on but I know how great our team is, I know some of the sacrifices they make to play for us and the resilience they have, I know this football team has given me a reason to be proud of our little corner of Brighton whilst also paying homage to where I came from (Villa wear the same colours as my childhood team – Railway Athletic) 

I know it’s going to be difficult to win the FA Cup, but until we’re knocked out, we can. I don’t blame Potter for moving to Chelsea for any number of reasons but I am disappointed that his ambition could not see the potential in Brighton. As for my own ambition and where I see myself in the year 2032? Coaching Montpelier Villa women and writing for the Whistler? I told you I was ambitious.