ST ROCH'S have fittingly led the tributes to their highly regarded team manager Paul Kelly who has died at the age of 57.

Paul had been hospitalized for the past couple of months as a result of battling severe Covid complications and his Garngad club, announced the devastating news of his passing with a statement on Thursday.

It read: “It is with profound sadness that we share the loss of St Roch’s manager Paul Kelly who passed away peacefully this afternoon.

"Paul was respected and loved well beyond the world of football, and we share our deepest condolences and sympathies with his family at this time.

"We have requested to postpone all football activities this weekend as a mark of respect to the Gaffer and his family.”

The postponement of the Candy Rock’s scheduled Conference C Division game at home to East Kilbride Thistle has allowed officials of the famous old Glasgow outfit to further acknowledge the affection held for Paul through their stated intention to open the James McGrory Stadium, both today and tomorrow, to facilitate anyone wanting to post a message in a book of remembrance commemorating Paul.

It’s an all too rare occurrence to have the mid-season death of a current team boss therefore it’s poignantly pleasing to see the WoSFL asking all its member clubs, and not just those he played for or managed in his career, Pollok, Cambuslang Rangers, Ashfield, Petershill (as assistant manager to Willie Patterson) and of course St Rochs, to show due respect for Paul by observing a minute’s silence at their matches.

His close friends would argue this combined tribute is no less than he deserved and they would also claim it is no exaggeration to say the world of football (or at the very least a sizable slice of it) will be united in mourning the passing of this charismatic and knowledgeable character.

That’s because it’s one of the unassuming Paul’s little known career snippets that after first coming to prominence as a 16 year old St Rochs prospect, he had joined crack Under 21 amateurs Milngavie Wanderers where his performances earned a dream opportunity to sign for Rangers…the Hong Kong variety on the south coast of China.

Paul’s stay on the Orient lasted all of 18 months prior to him returning to these shores to intermingle playing spells with Clyde, when  Craig Brown was at the helm, East Stirling, Stenhousemuir  and latterly Alloa from where  then Pollok manager Tommy Reynolds reinstated him back into the Junior ranks in 1990.

Paul was also to go on and play with no little distinction for Cambuslang Rangers before the pull of Royston Road led to his return in a dual player/manager role that saw his eye for a player and ability to put a team together culminate in a 1995 Central Second Division title triumph.

Not long afterwards came another chapter for his career book when he founded Saturday morning amateur side Glasgow North whose ranks yielded up soon to be Junior worthies such as David Galt, Eddie Ferns, Stephen Bryson as well as his own son Kevin.

After a short lived spell at Ashfield’s helm, Paul reinvented himself as a loyal No 2 to close friend Patterson in the Petershill dugout where his background role dovetailed perfectly with his day-job at the Partick Thistle Charitable Trust, in particular overseeing the running of the New Petershill Park Sports Complex on behalf of the local community.

He might still have been there but for a 2019 parting of the ways between the Springburn outfit and Patterson however within a few months, Paul’s enduring fondness for all things St Rochs,had brought him to accept an offer to assume the manager’s chair.

Returning to his roots for a third time, with son Kevin by his side in an assistant manager capacity, has brought a veritable mixed bag of fortunes  however this season Paul’s stamp on footballing matters has seen the Candy established as one of the leading Conference League promotion hopefuls as depicted by  his playing charges currently holding down third top spot in the C Division standings.

Tributes for him have poured in from all walks of life, not just football, though one of the most heartfelt and personal salutes was offered up by current Rob Roy gaffer Stewart Maxwell  whose friendship with Paul has been unwavering down through the years.

Last night Maxi said: “I’ve no doubt there will be a few tears shed tomorrow for Paul,  because he was an absolute gentleman of a guy yet blessed with a  wonderful sense of humour that made any time spent in his company an absolute joy.”

More mundane footballing matters has the Premier League’s leading trio of clubs, Pollok, Auchinleck Talbot and Clydebank in dangerous territory, tasked with heading out on the road for vital encounters.

Frontrunners Pollok’s short hop to take on Benburb down at New Tinto Park appears to present an easier time of it, on paper at least, given their fellow Southsiders are experiencing a potentially damaging slump in form and have not picked up a victory in their last six outings.

Considerably tougher hurdles in the shape of Irvine Meadow and Cumnock ly confront Talbot and the Bankies respectively with the Irvine club’s co-manager and former |Auchinleck playing legend Colin Spence desperate for his players to avenge their 3-1 September defeat in the William Hill Scottish Cup.

He reasoned: "We’ve played seven games since the Cup fixture and have won six of them so we are in decent fettle for the rematch other than an injury to Kyle Faulds which looks like preventing him from taking part against his former club.

“It’s a blow because he’s been our main driving force in midfield and his positional presence has freed up Michael Wardrope to get into the forward areas  to great effect and bag six goals in his last couple of outings.

"James Latta and I don’t want to upset this balance so we’ll probably bring in young Fraser McMillan  as a direct replacement for Kyle.

Spenny added: “Going up against Talbot is also a massive test for our exciting young striker Connor Boyd who has only returned to the team a few weeks ago after picking up a bad ankle injury early season.

“He has been in electric form of late , as has Jamie Martin and another youthful prospect Sam McLoy (ex-Dalry Thistle) so hopefully they will look upon the game against Talbot as an opportunity to make a  name for themselves.”

Clydebank, with confidence suitably boosted by their outstanding Scottish Cup replay win over Elgin City, will be facing a much changed Cumnock side from the one they bested by a 2-1 scoreline back in July.

Nock boss Tony McInally welcomes back no fewer than five injured players though the highly regarded Callan Veitch is still a week or two away from making a comeback.

Veitch’s continued absence is offset by McInally having Hashim Bakar back from a long term torn quad muscle sidelining as well as Ayr United loan signing Paul Smith.

Macca admitted: “We’ve had a horrendous time of it with injuries but at long last we have Darren McGill, Nathan Baird, Chris Campbell, Alan Murdoch and goalkeeper Kieran Hughes on the way back.

“Finally having players of their quality to call on should make a world of difference to our performances , particularly up front where Hashim was signed for his penalty box attributes and has been sadly missed.

“No doubt  Clydebank will be cock-a-hoop after their terrific Cup run and will be coming to Townhead feeling confident about turning us over  but I’d like to think we are in a much better shape for giving them a game of it.”

PLAYING TOMORROW: (Kick Offs 2PM unless stated ) PDM Buildbase Premier League. Kilwinning Rangers v Rossvale,  Largs Thistle v Hurlford Utd, Bonnyton Thistle v Blantyre Vics , Irvine Meadow v Auchinleck Talbot,  Rutherglen Glencairn v Troon, Glenafton  v Kilbirnie Ladeside , Benburb v Pollok, Beith v Rob Roy, Cumbernauld Utd v Darvel, Cumnock v Clydebank. PDM Buildbase Conference League A.Maryhill v Johnstone Burgh, Saltcoats Vics v Whitletts Vics, Forth Wanderers v Maybole, Craigmark v  Glasgow University, Lesmahagow v Bellshill Athletic, Girvan v  Irvine Vics, Arthurlie v  Shotts Bon Accord, Muirkirk v  Lugar Boswell.PDM Buildbase Conference League B. Greenock v Carluke Rovers, Thorniewood Utd v Newmains Utd, Glasgow Utd  v Royal Albert , St Cadocs v  Dalry Thistle ,Ashfield v Cambuslang Rangers, Port Glasgow v Ardeer Thistle, Kello Rovers v Renfrew.PDM Buildbase Conference League C. Ardrossan Winton Rovers v Vale of Clyde, Petershill  v Kilsyth Rangers, Glasgow Perthshire v  St Anthonys, Vale of Leven v    Neilston , St Rochs v  East Kilbride Thistle ,Wishaw v Lanark Utd., Yoker Athletic v Larkhall Thistle.PDM Buildbase Division Four. Harmony Row v B.S.C. Glasgow(Friday 7.30PM),Kilsyth Athletic v Campbeltown Pupils , Finnart  v Glenvale, St Peters v Harthill Royal.