Tony Kellow 1952-2011
Tony was born in Budock Water, three miles west of Falmouth on 1 May 1952 and while an electrician at Falmouth Docks he began his football career with Penzance AFC in 1970. While playing for Penzance he had a six-week trial with AFC Bournemouth but nothing came of it and he eventually joined his hometown club Falmouth Town in 1973. He became a prolific goalscorer with Falmouth, netting 126 goals in only 114 league games and scoring over 200 goals in all, while also winning a number of trophies with the club.
Such form attracted Exeter City and in July 1976 he signed for the club for a fee of £1,500. He commented on his somewhat late start in League football, "I had plenty of trials with different clubs and was offered terms by Plymouth Argyle but I wasn't happy with the situation and decided to continue with my apprenticeship and play local football."
He went on to play 107 League games and score 40 goals for Exeter before signing for Blackpool for a then club record fee of £125,000 in mid-November 1978. The fee that Blackpool paid was also the highest ever paid by a Third Division club and the Seasiders pipped Cardiff City, Wrexham, Fulham, West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion for his signature. On his move to Blackpool he commented, "While I appreciate Exeter giving me a break, I don't really think they will ever go higher than the Third Division and although I love my native Cornwall I knew I would have to move to get on."
He made his League debut for Blackpool against Rotherham United on 18 November 1978 and even though he did not get the service that he deserved, he "made an impressive start". He was "given nothing clear to shoot at, but knocked the ball off nicely and created half chances when there was nothing else doing in a weak front line" as Blackpool lost 2-1 with the consolation goal coming from defender Peter Suddaby.
He scored his first goal for Blackpool in his third game when Derek Spence added two more as Blackpool defeated Chester City 3-1. Later in the season, on 20 February 1979, he strained a calf muscle after just four minutes of the game against Hull City and manager Bob Stokoe was going to substitute him at half-time. But Stokoe said later, "Tony was hurt very early and we did not want him to aggravate it. We nearly whipped him off at half-time, but we gave it another 10 minutes and he smacked in a beautiful goal." The manager added, "He wanted to play on and stayed long enough to set up a win for us." His goal came when "He played a gorgeous one-two with Spence and, left clear 20 yards out, thrashed a great shot confidently past the goalkeeper" as Blackpool won the game 3-1.
He was injured again the following week and missed three games as a consequence but he was back to his best when scoring two important late goals, in the 78th and 85 minutes, to give Blackpool a 2-1 victory over Peterborough United on 28 April 1979 when he "finished superbly to ease Blackpool's worries after they had strolled through much of the earlier play content to contain their opponents". And at the end of his first season he had scored 11 goals in 25 games, a record that put him second behind Spence, who had scored 16.
Stokoe commented, "I have had several chats with Tony this season, about various aspects, and I have made it clear that he can earn more money in the game in the north than in the west country, but these reports have come as a surprise to me. Tony has such a good attitude to his profession that I am sure he would have come to see me if he genuinely wanted a move. I think it has been one of those seasons with a lot of disappointments for everyone at the club, and various players have been discontented at different times. The important thing is for all of us at the club to get together, to bring in more Tony Kellows and Terry Pashleys, so that we have a united determination to succeed."
He was in prime form at the start of the 1979/80 season and "Kellow's return to his old sharp form was possibly Blackpool's biggest tonic" was the after-match verdict following a 3-2 Anglo-Scottish Cup victory over Burnley on 7 August 1979. He carried this form into the League and he was "magnificent, so quick to turn and torment the defence with his sharp shooting" in a 3-1 defeat by Sheffield United on 18 September 1979. "He was just off target in the third minute and went even closer with a whiplash drive after 14 after a great flick from Brian Wilson following Paul Gardner's quick throw" and then he scored a minute before half-time when "Gardner's good ball found Kellow with his back to goal" and he "turned superbly and smacked a rising drive into the roof of the net with precious little margin for error". He also had a goal disallowed about which caretaker-manager Stan Ternent said, "We played well and there was nothing wrong with the first Kellow goal that was ruled out." Overall the comment was "Lapses of concentration in defence are something for the individuals to put right, but in terms of a team performance, backed by outstanding displays by Kellow, Doyle and Malone, Blackpool have nothing to be ashamed off. This sort of effort will carry the day nine times out of 10."
The rumours of a move to Derby County, who had earlier expressed a strong interest, resurfaced in mid-September 1979 and Ternent said, "I assured Tony the reports were total speculation and he smiled, walked out and played superbly against Rotherham and Sheffield United, taking his tally to four League goals."
The Blackpool manager also told his Derby counterpart Colin Addison that a fee of £200,000 could not cover the deposit on Kellow who Blackpool rated much higher, as did other football chiefs. Ternent's last word on the subject was "I am trying to build a team, not destroy one. Of course Tony has been unsettled by the reports. I would be if a First Division club was said to be coming for me with a massive offer. As long as I am connected with the club Tony Kellow will not be available."
However, interest did not fade away and various League scouts were at Gillingham to watch him on 3 November 1979 and although no offers were reportedly received by Blackpool, it was later stated that the club had turned down £200,000 from both Arsenal and Derby County for Kellow's services. To ensure his long term future at Bloomfield Road he signed a new four-year contract in mid-November 1979 that was deemed "no more than he deserves" as he had "shown a dedication at Blackpool which could not be bettered and his average of one goal every two and a bit games is as good as the club have had".
But after two goals in a dramatic 5-4 victory over Brentford on 13 October 1979 he went through something of a goal drought and he did not find the net again until another double in a 5-2 victory over Reading on 8 December 1979. He added two more goals to his tally, the last of which came in a 2-1 victory over Hull City on 26 December 1979 and this turned out to be his final goal for Blackpool as he played a further 10 games for the Seasiders without finding the net.
The club then announced that he had suffered "a dramatic loss of form" and Blackpool's general manager stated, "Kellow does not fit into Alan Ball's [Blackpool's new manager] future plans. Alan has taken stock of the whole situation and feels that Kellow will not play a part." As a result he was transferred back to Exeter City for a fee of £75,000 on 13 March 1980. Even so, when the season ended his 12 goals in 32 League games put him jointly at the top of the Blackpool goalscorers alongside Stan McEwan, five of whose goals came from the penalty spot.
And in October 1980 Blackpool manager Alan Ball admitted that he might have been wrong to have let Kellow go, particularly as Blackpool's strike force had been weak since the player left. He said, "I came here and cleared out 14 players and that involved a lot of snap judgements as I sought to rebuild. But I am not infallible. I am delighted Tony is doing well. I tell all my players to do well for themselves as I told the 14 I let go. There weren't for me. But sometimes one will come back and knock you in the teeth. Tony has done that. God bless him!"
He certainly showed Blackpool what they had let go for he went on to score a further 61 League goals in 143 appearances for Exeter before moving on to Plymouth Argyle in November 1983. His stay at Plymouth was, however, short-lived as he made only 10 appearances and scored two goals for the club.
Tony is still Exeter City's leading goalscorer with 129 League goals and in a recent poll was voted Exeter's second greatest player of all time behind Alan Banks. He was always a most popular figure in the south west as well as having plenty of admirers at Bloomfield Road where he will be fondly remembered for his wholehearted efforts and his 23 League goals in 57 games.
Granada TV Kick-off co-presenter Jimmy Armfield introduces the goal highlights from the Blackpool win over Chester City at Bloomfield Road on 23rd December 1978. A brace from Derek Spence and a goal from Tony Kellow ensured a comfortable 3-0 win over City.