Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Life's a beach for Norman right now

HAPPY in your job? Norman Kelly, the former Linfield midfielder, certainly is ... and no wonder for his patch these days is renowned Laguna Beach, California where he revels in the sun, sea and sand.

HAPPY in your job? Norman Kelly, the former Linfield midfielder, certainly is ... and no wonder for his patch these days is renowned Laguna Beach, California where he revels in the sun, sea and sand.

Norman (34), who departed from Belfast for the USA in 2003, is currently director of coaching at a club in the resort which operates 20 boys and girls teams from eight years upwards, steering them through the school and college system.

The set-up is funded by kids whose parents pay 1200 dollars to put them through; major fund-raising events are also staged during the year and overall the project has proved a success in no small neasure to the young Ulsterman's contribution.

He said: "Interest in soccer among the kids in the States is phenomenal. The main problem is when they reach under-16 or under-17 level a gap then exists for them unless they are something special.

"My job is to ensure as many as possible make the grade in the school teams and, perhaps, to obtain a football scholarship to college."

Kelly joins quite a few ex-Northern Ireland players now preaching the football gospel overseas.

Further down the highway in San Diego is Brian Quinn, former Distillery and Everton forward, and Brian Halliday who had spells coaching at Portadown along with the late Gibby Mackenzie, then at Cliftonville and Larne, and now presents a popular Saturday coast-to-coast soccer radio show from San Diego.

His ratings are high, the public feedback superb while the guest lists reads like a who's who of international football.

Vic Moreland, Northern Ireland midfielder who formed a renowned partnership, is operating on the East Coast while Colin McCurdy, the Linfield striker, capped against Australia in 1980, concentrates on the Canadian and North American scene.

The world certainly has been Kelly's oyster even at such a relatively youthful age.

He started with Oldham Athletic, moved to Wigan and Dunfermline Athletic before going to Brunei, Borneo; Raith Rovers was his next port of call followed by Glenavon, Glentoran IFK Stroustead (Sweden),Australia and, finally, Linfield with whom he won two Irish League championship medals.

He also has an Irish Cup honour and caps at under-21, 19 and 18 levels. He was a substitute but didn't play in the 1-1 friendly draw against Germany at the Weserstadion, Bremen, 1996.

How does he see football progressing at the top level in the United States?

"It's a difficult job" he admitted. "Major soccer experiences many hurdles attempting to obtain more publicity faced with wall-to-wall coverage of American football and baseball.

"For instance, even when Real Madrid came here there was virtually not a word about it in the media. We, of course, get live coverage of the British and European games on Fox Sports Soccer which are enjoyed

"Due to the time difference we're watching them around noon in California. I read the Telegraph every day, Ireland's Saturday Night and Sunday Life on the Internet to see what is happening.It is a marvellous way to keep in touch.

"I'm in frequent contact, too, with Glenn Ferguson who was recently on vacation here with his family. We did the rounds including a visit to Las Vegas. We've been pals from a long way back."

Kelly, a highly competent player with the Blues, had a special word of praise for ex-teammate Noel Bailie who has just passed his 800th appearance for the club.

"He is fantastic -no other word describes his consistency - the perfect example of the true professional." said Kelly.

It is a sentiment with which everyone in football will agree. Yes, Mister Consistency has few peers.

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