Belfast Telegraph

Fan anger as Oldham boss calls Martin McGuinness a 'legend'

By Rebecca Black

Oldham Athletic says no supporters have yet claimed a season ticket refund over a row that blew up when the football club's manager described Martin McGuinness as a "legend".

Fans took to social media to express their disgust after Latics boss Darren Kelly issued a tweet about the Deputy First Minister.

There has even been a Facebook group set up calling for Mr Kelly to be sacked, and others have threatened to boycott matches.

One fan of the club, who served in the military, said it was a step too far.

"That's it for me. I will not support a club whose manager describes a terrorist as a legend," he said.

"In a town like Oldham, with so many people who have served in the armed forces, many who will have toured Northern Ireland, this is a step too far."

The former Portadown and Derry City footballer was appointed manager at Boundary Park this week.

The controversy began when Mr Kelly used Twitter to thank Mr McGuinness for sending him a photograph of his mum, Peggy Kelly, taken at a Bloody Sunday commemoration.

Mrs Kelly's brother Michael Kelly was one of those shot dead by paratroopers on January 30, 1972.

His tweet direct to Mr McGuinness read: "my mums (sic) been at me all week saying 'did Martin tweeter that pic of me and him lol #legend."

Mr Kelly defended the tweet, saying he respected the former IRA commander for his role in the peace process - but not for his actions during the Troubles.

"I'm not political. The only thing I want in Northern Ireland is peace," he said.

"Martin McGuinness is about bringing peace to Northern Ireland. My admiration for Martin McGuinness is for his work in the peace process."

Mr Kelly has since deleted his Twitter account, and claimed that the row had been "blown out of proportion".

"There is nothing in it whatsoever. I have deleted Twitter, though not on the back of that. My account went into meltdown," he said.

"At the end of the day, I am a family man and the manager of this great football club. That is what my life is about and I have no political views in that."

The English side reacted swiftly with club chairman and owner Simon Corney offering disgruntled fans a full refund and hosted a drop-in-session for those wanting to quiz him over Mr Kelly's hiring.

However, a spokesman for the club said last night that no season ticket refunds had been given out so far, and thanked the supporters who came along to the event.

Mr Corney added: "Darren's explained his views to us and we were satisfied with what he said. Darren is a thorough gentleman, he's a good guy."

In December Oldham's sponsors threatened to quit when it emerged the club was in talks to sign convicted rapist Ched Evans.

Evans was convicted of rape in April 2012 and sentenced to five years. He has not played football since, despite being released on licence in October 2014.

Mr Kelly is from Londonderry, and started his football career playing for Derry City, and later joined Carlisle United.

Belfast Telegraph


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