Bobby Kellard: The Big Interview

Bobby Kellard

Bobby Kellard

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Bobby Kellard’s Pompey career started and ended with a bang – literally.

A naturally left-sided player, highly-rated Kellard first caught the eye of former Blues boss George Smith in his England Youth days – playing alongside Martin Peters and Terry Venables.

It was a case of third time lucky for Smith on his eventual acquisition of Southend’s youngest-ever debutant, though, having lost out to both Crystal Palace and Ipswich with previous bids for his signature.

Three years after first registering an interest in the hard-working midfielder, the Pompey manager finally landed his man – for a fee of £15,000 in March 1966.

Unassured of a starting role, Kellard had to fight to dispossess Fratton favourite Johnny Gordon from the starting line-up.

That’s exactly what he did – on his first day at Pompey training.

Kellard said: ‘The first day I got to Pompey we played a practice match in training.

‘Johnny Gordon was there and we exchanged a few words.

‘Before I knew it, he ended up grabbing me by the throat and we were having a fight!

‘George (Smith) must have looked at me and thought: “What on earth have I bought here?”

‘It is fair to say John was a bit angry at me – I think he thought I was going to take his place as he was older than me.

‘We ended up good friends after that, though, so it didn’t matter.’

For no-nonsense Kellard, rucking with team-mates was par for the course.

At previous club Ipswich he had been on one side of an England-Scotland divide within the camp with ‘spilt blood’ a regular occurrence in training.

But the ‘troublemaker’ tag he was frequently labelled with throughout his career is one Kellard insists was misplaced.

The idea he would keep quiet when he had an opinion did not sit right with him, though.

And that meant manager Smith – himself an outspoken character – regularly clashed with his prized Pompey signing.

Kellard said: ‘When we had a bad game we would have a post-mortem about it.

‘For me, those talks were no good if you weren’t going to say anything.

‘I wasn’t shy in saying things and it used to upset him (Smith).

‘It was no reflection on him, the players or any particular system we played, I just said what I felt.

‘I was labelled a troublemaker throughout my career – but I wasn’t, I was just honest.’

Having endured a miserable start to life on the field with Pompey – picking up an injury in a 1-0 loss to Birmingham – Kellard’s tenacious ways fast ensured he became a fans’ favourite.

Transferred inside to a central-midfield role to accomodate the club-record £25,000 signing of Nicky Jennings, he duly thrived alongside manager’s namesake George Smith as the Blues topped the division two table in November 1967 – for the first time in five years.

But with all apparently going well, Kellard sensationally asked to be put on the transfer list – reacting angrily to a pay dispute.

Although he continued to graft on the pitch, the Blues – who led the table for three months – wavered and ended the season in fifth place.

Ever-present but ever-stubborn, Kellard was gone in the summer.

He said: ‘The Pompey fans really took to me and were very supportive – they were the best fans I knew throughout my career.

‘We also had a number of very good players – Ray Hiron, John Milkins, Albert McCann, John McClelland, I could keep on going.

‘I was living on Hayling Island at that moment in time, which was very nice – I was happy at the club.

‘But then George got a bee in his bonnet about players’ wages.

‘We had all gone on strike to get the ceiling lifted off our wages,

‘George then created his own wage system which didn’t go down well with a lot of us.

‘It benefitted a few but I didn’t really agree with it and made that known as a matter of principle.

‘That season, we just missed out on promotion to QPR.

‘I was the only player to play every single game and wasn’t given a rise.

‘Others, though, were given more than £100 – I disagreed with it.

‘And Ray Pointer who hadn’t played a great number of games was given the club’s player-of-the-year award to go with his rise.

‘Albert (McCann) was sat next to me when they announced it (the award) and said: “Bob, walk out”.’

Little did McCann know that Kellard would do exactly that a matter of weeks later.

It was a decision Kellard, who was desperate to play in the first division, lived to regret.

He said: ‘In the end, George said Bristol City (a fellow second division side) wanted to buy me, but I wouldn’t want to go there.

‘I was as stubborn as him, though, and my response was to say that I didn’t care where I went as long as I was wanted.

‘I didn’t agree with the way I had been treated by him but the truth was that I didn’t want to leave.’

The £35,000 transfer fee was a record for both clubs and highlighted the considerable talent Kellard possessed.

With Blues fans reeling from the double disappointment of missing out on top-flight promotion and the sale of a favourite player, it appeared Kellard’s Fratton stay had ended on a sour note.

But three clubs and four years later, he was back on the south coast, having achieved his footballing ambition to grace the top-flight with both Leicester and former club Crystal Palace.

Signed by former team-mate Ron Tindall in late December 1972, Kellard – now also the club’s record transfer fee paid at £42,000 – brought a much-needed aggression back to relegation-threatened Pompey.

The captain’s armband and distinctive beard duly followed as he picked up where he left off – steering the Blues to second-division safety.

Kellard was then a central character in a memorable FA Cup run the following season – under new boss John Mortimore.

A last-minute penalty salvaged a replay against Swindon where Kellard netted the game’s only goal at the County Ground.

More heroics saw Pompey edge past Leyton Orient at the third time of asking before Nottingham Forest put an end to their cup crusade with a narrow 1-0 win.

That was as good as it got for the Blues, Mortimore and Kellard, though, as the introduction of a third manager in as many seasons caused a conflict which was spark to life in a memorable - and violent - manner.

Kellard said: ‘Unfortunately, after Ron and John came Ian St John.

‘The only thing Ian St John loved was himself – we deteriorated badly under him.

‘From day one, he felt threatened by my influence in the dressing room and wanted me out the door.

‘He couldnt manage a booze up in a brewery – he’d just kick a ball around in training and then join in for the five-a-side at the end.

‘He kept dropping me and leaving me out – but I was still on a win bonus even if I didn’t play.

‘One day after we had won – again, I didn’t play – I noticed I hadn’t received my bonus.

‘I went into the referee’s room where Ian got changed for training and everyone knew there was going to be trouble.

‘As I walked in the door he looked at me and said: “You are a cheat”.

‘Furious, I called him a liar and then smacked him.

‘That was the end of me at Pompey.’

A short stint in South Africa with Cape Town City followed after Kellard left Pompey with 176 games and 18 goals from two eventful three-season spells on the south coast.

Now 61, Kellard lives in Southend where he is an antiques dealer who enjoys the occasional dabble in oil painting himself.

Sadly, tragedy has struck his family with the loss of three of his four children to incurable illness.

BOBBY KELLARD ON...

..LETHAL LEYTON STRIKE

I scored a goal for Pompey against Leyton Orient in an FA Cup replay on a neutral ground at Crystal Palace (February 1974), which was quite unbeliveable really.

The ball was sat in a puddle.

Terry Brisley (a future Pompey player) was playing for Orient and was coming in to tackle me for it.

I remember thinking to myself: “I’m just going to whack this”.

With all my might I hit it and connected so well that John Jackson (Orient’s keeper) was still looking for the ball when it was in the back of the net!

That was my best Pompey goal – I hit the thing so hard it went in the net one side and came out the other!

We went on to win the game 2-0.

...BEARD BANTER

Bobby Kellard was the first Pompey player to grow a beard in the Football League era.

Birmingham had a player named Trevor Hockey who was a tough-tackling workman-like player – like myself.

He grew a beard, so I said: ‘I’ll have one”.

He told me that I wasn’t man enough to grow one, so I did. It was only for a laugh!

...BECOMING AN ANTIQUES DEALER

When we travelled to clubs like Newcastle or wherever required an overnight stay, I would get up and wander around the local markets and buy a picture or something I liked.

I built up my own collection and after football made a living from buying and selling pictures. That became harder to do, though, so I’ve added furniture and a bit of jewellery.

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