Skip to main content Skip to site footer
Club News

👤 1989/90 player profiles: Tom Kelly

Profiling the championship winning side on the 30th anniversary of the title

15 April 2020

Club News

👤 1989/90 player profiles: Tom Kelly

Profiling the championship winning side on the 30th anniversary of the title

15 April 2020

April 28, 1990, remains one of the finest days in Exeter City's history as, on the back of an incredible home record, we secured our first title in our club's history. During this month we will be taking a look back - in alphabetical order - of the main players in that title winning side. This time we look at a reliable and versatile player who made 20 appearances during the title winning campaign.


Tom Kelly may have arrived at the Park late on into the season, but he certainly left his own personal mark on the title win.  

Beginning his footballing life with Scottish non-league side Gartcosh United, Tom subsequently had spells in the youth set-ups at Hibernian, Partick Thistle and Queen of the South. 

In August 1985, he made the step up to senior football, moving south of the border where he made 15 appearances for Hartlepool United, before joining Torquay United in July 1986.

Tom played 120 times for the Gulls before moving to York City on a free transfer in June 1989. He immediately became a regular at Bootham Crescent, but in March 1990 the full-back moved back to Devon, joining Exeter City for a fee of £15,000. 

He made his debut for the Grecians on March 24, coming on as a substitute for Steve Neville in the 5-0 thrashing of Rochdale at St James Park. 

Missing out on the next match at home to Scunthorpe, he was handed the number seven shirt for the trip to Hereford, and would keep his place in the side for the remainder of the season. 

Not only was he handed his spot in the first team, but in the absence of Darran Rowbotham and Jim McNichol, he was also given penalty duty for the crucial match against Scarborough on April 28, 1990.  

A victory would secure City their first - and so far only - title victory, and on an afternoon full of drama, excitement and intense emotion, it was Kelly’s coolness from the spot - not once, but twice - that finally secured the Divison Four crown in a thrilling 3-2 victory. 

Despite being a fairly regular member of the City team, Kelly returned to Torquay United for a second spell in January 1993, and he remained at Plainmoor until the end of the 1995/96 season.

In all he had scored nine goals in 88 appearances during his time at St James Park, although no game or goal would have been more important – or memorable - than the one where he sent the keeper the wrong way, in front of the Big Bank, to confirm our status as champions.  

This article has been created using material from the Grecian Archive and ECFC Museum as part of the 'Celebrating our Heritage' programme, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and supported by the University of Exeter. 

Advertisement block

iFollow Next Match Tickets Account