FORMER York City defender Darren Kelly is on a mission to persuade more North Yorkshire youngsters to pledge their allegiance to their local team.

Kelly has returned to the Bootham Crescent club as a community coach and is hoping that the plethora of Premier League shirts normally on show at the department’s courses can be curtailed in coming years.

The affable 31-year-old, who now plays for Garforth Town in the Evo-Stik League division one north, is relishing the challenge of his new full-time job two years after being released by the Minstermen.

Kelly, who also coaches City’s under-14 Centre of Excellence team, said: “I want to get the youngsters in York supporting and dreaming of playing for their home-town team rather than for the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.

“When I grew up, I would have given my right arm to play for my local team Derry City and I’m hoping to instil that in the children who come to our sessions and play for our Centre of Excellence teams.”

Former Northern Ireland Under-21 international Kelly remained based in Sheriff Hutton after parting company with City and, having rejoined the club in a new capacity, is predicting exciting times on the horizon.

He added: “It’s great to be back. I’ve missed the whole team ethic of working at a football club and we have a great bunch of people in the community department.

“It’s good to see some of the guys I played with still here too, like Dave McGurk, Dan Parslow and big Inghy. They are some of the nicest fellas you could meet.

“I think there could be good times ahead and I want to be a part of that. Working at a new stadium would be great and I would love to stay at the club for years and years.”

Kelly signed for City from Derry for a five-figure sum in August 2007 but, after making 37 league appearances in two seasons, he dropped out of the professional game.

There is no hint of bitterness, however, with Kelly reasoning: “I was never one to complain and always look to leave places with a handshake and a smile.”

Since hanging up his professional boots, the former Carlisle defender has set up his own sports coaching business, visiting schools to deliver classes in basketball, tennis, rounders and dodgeball, as well as football.

Having completed his UEFA ‘A’ licence in 2005, becoming a City employee again will also provide Kelly with the opportunity to study for his Pro Licence.

Admitting aspirations to coach and manage in the game, Kelly is hoping to benefit from watching the work of City chief Gary Mills at close quarters.

He said: “I’ve always coached in one form or another for the last 15 years and been keen to study the game. I’d like to be a coach or manage one day and, at York, I can learn from a good bunch of people.

“I’ve met both Gary Mills and Darron Gee and I feel the club is moving in the right direction 100 per cent.

“I don’t usually put my neck on the line but, without doubt, I feel the manager is the man to take the club to the next level.

“He’s such a positive man and I would love to learn from him if that opportunity is there. The players speak so highly of him and I’ve actually trained with the first team recently so have seen him working first hand. He told me I looked pretty good but that my shooting let me down.”

As a qualified sports therapist and remedial masseur, Kelly has also offered his match-day assistance to City physio Jeff Miller.

He said: “I would like to get involved in that side of things and save the club a bit of money by helping out in a few areas perhaps by giving players pre-match and post-match massages.”

Simon Wood has also joined the City community team with the club having recently been successful in obtaining additional funding, the source of which will be announced in The Press shortly.

Seventh heaven as defensive kingpin Daniel rules ratings

DANIEL Parslow opened up a seven-point gap at the top of The Press Player of the Year standings with a man-of-the-match performance in last weekend’s 0-0 draw at Barrow.

That accolade earned the former Wales Under-21 international three points towards the contest, giving him a sizeable margin over fellow defender David McGurk, who has missed the last three matches.

The other points from Holker Street went to Michael Ingham (two) and James Meredith (one) as our second and third-highest rated players respectively.

Parslow also leads The Press Player of the Month contest after picking up the two bonus points on offer to the player who polled the most Barrow man-of-the-match votes from visitors to our website.

To be in with a chance of presenting the next Player of the Month winner with his prize before a City home game, do not forget to make your man-of-the-match nominations online.

The Press Player of the Year standings: Parslow 30 points, McGurk 23, Ingham 20, Meredith 20, Lawless 18, C Smith 18, Till 15, Rankine 14, Gash 11, J Smith 10, Young 8, Barrett 7, Chambers 7, Carruthers 6, Sangare 6, McDermott 5, Racchi 5, Reed 5, Weir 4, Boucaud 3, Constantine 2, Darville 2, Fyfield 2.

The Press Player of the Month for March standings: Parslow 6, J Smith 5, Ingham 4, Meredith 1.

Goals: Rankine 12, Constantine 7, J Smith 4, Till 4, Chambers 3, Lawless 3, Reed 2, Barrett 2, Racchi 2, Brodie 1, Fyfield 1, Gash 1, Mackin 1, McDermott 1, Meredith 1, Parslow 1, Sangare 1, C Smith 1, Young 1.

Assists: Rankine 10, Carruthers 5, Chambers 5, Gash 4, Lawless 3, Parslow 3, J Smith 3, Till 3, Darville 2, Fyfield 2, McGurk 2, C Smith 2, Barrett 1, Brodie 1, Constantine 1, Meredith 1, Weir 1.

Bad boys: J Smith two red cards, six yellow; McGurk one red, five yellow; Lawless six yellow; Rankine five yellow; C Smith four yellow; Boucaud, Chambers, Parslow, Young all three yellow; Brodie, Carruthers, Gash, Meredith, Racchi, Sangare all two yellow; Ingham one red; Barrett, Hatfield, Weir all one yellow.