Richard O'Kelly: Assistant announces shock departure from Villa
Written by Simon Austin — August 12, 2021
RICHARD O’KELLY has stepped down as Dean Smith’s assistant at Aston Villa just two days before the start of their Premier League campaign.
The 64-year-old has worked alongside Smith for almost a decade - at Walsall (in two separate spells), Brentford and, for the last three years, at Villa. No reason has yet been given for the departure.
O'Kelly said: "Over the past three years I have had the tremendous privilege of being part of the progression of Aston Villa Football Club. The investment by the owners in the state-of-the art facilities and recruitment in all areas has set the standards for Aston Villa to be a top club and achieve even greater success in the years to come.
"I have hugely enjoyed my time here; one of my favourite aspects of the job has been working with the talented and driven backroom team. There is a fantastic culture amongst the staff who have all shown the ability to pull together in the same direction and support each other, including through some challenging times.
"This is mirrored by the group of young ambitious players and more experienced role models that now form the first team squad, as well as the staff at the vibrant academy who create the perfect environment for the stars of tomorrow.
"I have witnessed first-hand Dean's excellent leadership and coaching skills. He is a top manager and I will take with me great memories of working with him and the other coaches.
"I am very grateful to the club and its wonderful fans for their support and will enjoy continuing to follow the Villa on its journey.”
Smith added: “Richard has worked with me for the best part of a decade and we have always had a really close relationship. We are friends as well as colleagues and I will miss him.
“I would like to thank him on a personal level for the dedication and support he has always given me and on behalf of everyone at Aston Villa we wish him all the very best for the future.”
Speaking a day later, Smith added: "It’s no big surprise and there is nothing sinister in it. He’s made a professional decision where he’s seen the progression of the football club and feels that it’s time to step aside. He goes with our best wishes."
Like Smith, O'Kelly was born in West Bromwich. He was also the person to inform players when they had failed to make the starting line-up, earning him the nickname "axeman".
Last month Smith lost another of his assistants, when former England captain John Terry announced he was leaving the club to spend more time with his family before, hopefully, pursuing his own managerial ambitions.
The 40-year-old had joined the club as a player in the summer of 2017 before becoming assistant in October 2018. The departures leave only Craig Shakespeare, who joined in August 2020, as Smith's assistant, with Neil Cutler as goalkeeper coach.