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Leaving Walsall FC a wrench to Richard O'Kelly

Walsall | Sport | Published:

Richard O'Kelly today admitted Bristol City were "too good to turn down" but insisted it was a wrench to quit as Walsall assistant boss.

The 56-year-old ex-Saddlers No 2 officially joined the Robins yesterday, after Sean O'Driscoll made him his top target to become his assistant.

O'Kelly, who scored 56 goals in 204 league appearances for Walsall, signed a rolling contract at Ashton Gate after City and the Saddlers struck a compensation deal.

And he revealed he couldn't reject the Robins but leaves Walsall, where he was contracted to until the end of the season, with a heavy heart.

He said: "It was too good an opportunity to turn down. It wasn't an easy decision – I have left a fantastic group of people at Walsall.

"I wish them all the best and everything they do, they do it in the right way. But Bristol City are in the Championship and it's a fantastic football club.

"Historically, Bristol City has always been the biggest club in the city and the area.

"Whenever I've been here with Doncaster and Bournemouth as a coach the Bristol City supporters have applauded the side I was with off and it shows they understand the game."

O'Kelly joins with the Robins bottom of the Championship ahead of the visit of Mick McCarthy's Ipswich on Saturday.

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Wolverhampton-born O'Driscoll is eager to work his long-time friend after successful spells at Bournemouth and Doncaster together.

He said: "I know it was a tough decision to leave Walsall, where he was achieving great success on a limited budget. Richard is an excellent coach whose opinion I respect."

O'Kelly added: "We have known each other for 30-odd years. Whichever club we have been at, we talk about the game.

"We don't always see eye-to-eye but we have got the same beliefs on how things should be done. Hopefully, I inspire him and he inspires me."

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Saddlers manager Dean Smith now faces a search for a new assistant.

Academy chief Neil Woods assisted the first-team when O'Kelly initially left to join Hereford last season, before he returned full-time in June.

Woods could fill the gap again for Saturday's League One trip to struggling Colchester.

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