Former Arsenal youngster Julian Kelly is determined to repay the faith Spalding boss Pat Rayment has shown in him.
Rayment was delighted to pull off a major coup by persuading the wing ace to move to the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field and described him as the best signing in the club’s history.
That’s some statement, considering the club was formed some 68 years before Kelly entered this world – but the Enfield-born player is keen to live up to the hype.
He said: “It’s nice to hear comments like that from the manager and I can understand what he means because I have played around 100 games in the Football League.
“I am really looking forward to playing for Spalding because they are ambitious, just like me.
“They want to move up the divisions and so do I so we should be good for each other. I am only 24 and I want to get back into the Football League eventually.”
Spalding first approached Kelly last season following his release by Notts County, but he admits the timing was wrong.
“My head wasn’t in the right place last season as I had lost my love for the game,” he admits.
“I’m a friend of Lee Canoville and he asked if I would be interestd in coming to Spalding but I needed time away from playing.
“I’d had injuries and I had lost the buzz for football but taking time away has helped me to get my hunger for the game back.
“Although I decided against signing last season, I kept an eye out for Spalding’s results and now I feel it is the right time to come here.
“I spoke to Pat and he is very ambitious about taking the club higher.”
Rayment likes the fact Kelly can play in any one of four positions – left-back, right-back, left-wing or right-wing – but the youngster has no doubt where he would like to play.
“I am definitely happiest playing on the wing,” he said. “I played at right-back for Notts County but I think I am more effective as a winger.”
Kelly began his career at Arsenal where Kieran Gibbs was also coming through the ranks.
But while Gibbs went on to become an England international and a Premier League regular, Kelly was released as a 16-year-old and he moved on to Reading as a youth team player.
Steve Coppell handed him his first-team debut on the right wing against Wolves as a 19-year-old and eight further appearanced followed for the Royals.
Coppell himself was a quality right-winger for Manchester United and England but he had left by the time Kelly moved on to Notts County three years ago.
Before joining County, Kelly had loan spells at Wycombe, where he scored on his debut against Millwall, and Lincoln.
He was a regular at full-back for County under Martin ‘Mad Dog’ Allen and scored four goals in 34 appearances in his first season there.
“He was a bit different, but it worked,” recalls Kelly of Allen. “He got good results so no-one can complain, but he was absolutely bonkers. If you were having a rubbish game you soon knew about it.”
Having made a further 23 appearances in his second season, Kelly was perhaps unlucky not to earn a new contract but with so many Championships and League One appearances under his belt you can see why Rayment is delighted to have got his man.