Eddie Kelly: from Europe and the Double to Torquay

Edward Patrick Kelly was born 7 February 7  1951 in Glasgow.   He played for Possilpark Depot (or Possilpark YMCA depending on who you listen to), and went straight to Arsenal as an apprentice in July 1966 where he found a growing group of Scottish players including Ian Ure, Frank McLintock and George Graham.

He turned professional in February 1967.  There is a curious commentary on the Arsenal web site which suggests that Eddie played in the 5 May 1966 match against Leeds, but we don’t agree.  The match recorded by a reader of the official site was in fact a match in September 1970 when Bremner took Eddie out of the game, and Eddie retaliated and got sent off.  His fine however was reduced as the FA recognised what Bremner had done to Eddie.

But having resolved that, let’s move back a little to his first match.

4 May 1969: Reykjavik 1 Arsenal 3.  In fact the first game for Charlie George and for Eddie Kelly.

6 September 1969 is the next notable date – his first leage game, against Sheffield Wednesday.

The 1969/70 was a big one for Eddie – although it turned out to be a warm up for something even bigger.  He made 16 appearances in 1969/70 including scoring against Anderlecht in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup final to give Arsenal their first European trophy.

And then in 1970/1 Eddie played 34 times in the league, and in the cup games, winning the Double, and scoring the first goal in the Cup final.  He was the first sub to score in a cup final.

I still remember many years later asking my pal Roger, with whom I travelled to hundreds of matches at home and away, (and thus, since we both lived in the Midlands, with whom I had endless endless conversations) why, in his opinion, we had slipped away in the following two seasons, and his instant answer was “Eddie Kelly was injured”.  I’d agree with him totally.

But Eddie came back in 1974/5 as captain, aged just 23, as Alan Ball, signed by Mee to be the centre of the new Arsenal that would rise again, gave it up as a bad job and asked for a transfer.   Eddie would hold the record for youngest captain until Tony Adams came along.

But Eddie’s problem was that Arsenal were in a decline that was faster than their rise to the Fairs Cup and the Double.  Here’s the league positions, often forgotten with all the focus on the Double and the Fairs Cup.

  • 1971: Champions
  • 1972: 5th
  • 1973: 2nd
  • 1974: 10th
  • 1975: 16th
  • 1976: 17th

Indeed as we have covered on this site, in March 1975 there was a serious possibility of Arsenal going down and playing in the second division for the first time since 1915.  But I don’t think for a moment it was Eddie’s fault – having been there I would say it was very much a problem of the management.  Bertie Mee had done it once and just couldn’t work out how to handle players in a way to nurture them so they could do it again.

Indeed there is a story in 71 Guns which reflects what we have heard so many times about Mee. He simply hadn’t got a clue how to handle players.  This is Eddie Kelly’s report…

They had just introduced this new thing where you got a £250 signing-on fee, so I went to see Bertie and I sat down with him and he said, ‘Eddie, we want to sign you as a professional and you know you also get £250 to help you out. Are you going to sign?’ I said to him, ‘Well, I want to sign but I’d like to get my mum and dad something to show my appreciation for what they’ve done for me growing up.’ Bertie asked what I was talking about so I said, ‘is there any chance of the club getting them a three-piece suite or something?’

Bertie blew his top, He said ‘Get up and get out of this office. Arsenal don’t do things like that. Come back in the morning and your plane ticket will be ready to go back to Glasgow.’

So Eddie won the Fairs Cup and the Double but then

26 December 1975: Last game for Eddie Kelly 

2 September 1976: Eddie Kelly sold to QPR

He had played 222 times for Arsenal including 175 in the first division.

Eddie stayed one year at QPR and then was signed by Frank McLintock at Leicester, leaving after three seasons as they were relegated and then promoted as champions.  His other clubs are covered in the table below.

Now according to Wiki he lives in Torquay runs a double glazing firm.  I wonder if he ever goes to see Torquay United – my second club (it’s all a connection with my late father – he took me to the Arsenal as a child, and the last matches I saw with him were at Torquay where my parents retired).

And while on the topic, here’s a note from last month (October 2014) on the Torquay United fans site

Just want to say a very Happy 75th Birthday to John Bartlett today, a Torquay United Supporter for over 65 years now, still remember a much younger John dipping his hand in his own pocket and paying parts of players wages like Eddie Kelly and a couple others , not many supporters would do that these days, so a much deserve Happy Birthday to you John

Years Team Lge games Goals
1969–1976 Arsenal 175 13
1976–1977 Queens Park Rangers 28 1
1977–1980 Leicester City 85 3
1980–1981 Notts County 27 1
1981 Bournemouth 13 0
1981–1983 Leicester City 34 0
1983–1984 Kettering Town 1 0
1984–1986 Torquay United

Although I can’t find the number of games Eddie played for Torquay I can confirm that he played for them from July 1984 to June 1986 when he retired from football.  This was a tough time for Torquay who finished bottom of the league in 1985, for the first time in 57 years and indeed in both the seasons Eddie was at Torquay the club had to seek re-election.

If you are still in Torquay Eddie, hi from me.  Indeed whether you are or no, hi from me.  You always were a favourite of mine.

Index to the Arsenal History files

The books



3 Replies to “Eddie Kelly: from Europe and the Double to Torquay”

  1. One of my memories of the 1971 FA Cup Final was the debate over who scored our first goal. It took a few replays on TV to determine that Eddie, not George Graham, was the scorer.

  2. hi eddie l wish you and family good xmas and happy new year so since you
    left arsenal in 1976 l still go to arsenal matches and my dad gordon went
    to tottenham as l never go to tottenham l still love arsenal

    yours regards
    keith hatch

  3. Hi Eddie
    Just wondering if you remember me. I worked at Lavender Manor Torquay. When you came for a job.
    You were kind enough to give me signed pic. Loved working with my Hero. And Fellow Gooner. Hope your doing ok pal.
    up the Gunners. Andy George

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