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Club News

Captain's Season Review

29 May 2015

This feature was taken from the matchday programme against Peterborough on the last game of the season.

Liam Kelly cannot wait for the 2015/16 Sky Bet League One season to begin, even though the current campaign has only just ended.

Latics' captain and influential midfield man looks forward with confidence believing there is no reason why the side cannot mount a challenge for promotion.

Kelly (25) is convinced the club has the nucleus of a successful side which, with the right additions, can challenge for a top-six spot, if not automatic promotion.

He explained: "There was a big turnover of players last summer, but there is not the need for as big an overhaul this time.

"Players like Carl Winchester, Mike Jones, Joseph Mills, James Wilson and Danny Philliskirk all have one more year left on their contracts and I have two.

"We have had a group of players who have played 40-odd games and if the manager can hold on to them and add two or three more, there is no reason why we cannot have a good season and push for promotion.

"As for the other players, they will also be all the better for the experience of having a full season under their belts."

Kelly added that it might have been different this season had they been able to keep some of their loan players for an extended period.

"The likes of Daniel Johnson and Jabo Ibehre came in and did well but unfortunately, we couldn’t keep hold of them," he explained.

He also added that teams need a modicum of good fortune which certainly has not been the case for Latics.

Kelly said: "We have used a lot of players whereas my former club Bristol City, who went up as champions with nearly zero injuries. Your need a little luck, and that is something we have not had.

"We have also seen this season how fine the margins and how incredibly tight it has been in League One. Teams winning two games suddenly found themselves in the play-off places or losing two at the bottom."

Kelly pointed to the horrendous run of injuries in March, when nine players were out at one stage, as a prime reason for the push for promotion faltering.

He continued: "March was a busy month with seven games, but it coincided with a terrible run of injuries, and that was when we fell away.

"It was disappointing as we had been in and around the play-off places for much of the season. And we knew with a fully-fit squad, we would be up there."

Kelly added the team has shown frequently this season that they are more than a match for the top teams in League One.

He said: "There is a lot of quality in the squad and we have shown we can match any other team.

"The problem has been playing teams at the bottom which has been strange. May be our game suits the teams that attack us as we have technically good players who are very good on the counter attack with the pace and goal of Jonathan Forte who has a great start to the season before we lost him through injury.

"The bottom teams tend to put 11 men behind the ball and it is difficult for any team playing them."

Kelly admitted his first season at Park has been a rollercoaster with the team in and around the play-off places for much of the campaign and he also cited the loss of manager Lee Johnson to Barnsley and the Ched Evans affair as other pivotal moments.

As for the controversial move to sign Evans, Kelly does not believe that had a detrimental effect on the team.

"I think it brought the club together in the wake of the media attention and performances even picked up," he continued.

It has also been a great season from a personal perspective for Kelly whose career had come to a standstill at Bristol City where he hardly played last season through injury. And when he returned he was told he didn’t feature in the plans of manager Steve Cotterill.

Former manager Lee Johnson took the plunge offering Kelly, a player of such ability that he has earlier won one full cap for Scotland, a three-year contract as well as appointing him team captain.
Kelly said: "I was a little bit surprised to be given the captaincy after only just arriving at the club. Lee had lost last season’s and knew me from our days together at Kilmarnock and what I could offer.

"I had been captain on one or two occasions previously, but nothing like this. There has been pressure, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.

"I am the voice of the players at team meetings and say what they may be thinking. But it is also my job to encourage the help the younger players in the side and those on loan.

"This has been the first time some of them have played League football so they need help and guidance."

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