Bernie Kelly, star of a great Raith team

BERNIE Kelly, a member of the great Raith Rovers team of the 1950's, died this week at his home in Detroit.

Bernie signed for Raith Rovers on October 1 1951, and made his debut in a 2-1 home defeat by Partick Thistle five days later, and scored his first goal for the club - in a 4-1 victory at Morton - before the month was out.

With six goals in 18 first team appearances in his debut season, the young, well-built inside forward helped Rovers to a very credible sixth place in the top division.

Bernie scored five times in 17 League appearances in 1952/53. The following season, 1953/54, saw him established in the first team, missing just four matches all season, and scoring 11 goals.

Kelly's seven goals from 20 League appearances helped avoid relegation in 1954/55, although his appearances were curtained by National Service.

The International Selectors had to take notice of Kelly's goal creating and prolific scoring, and he won a B International cap at Birmingham in February 1957, followed by a reserve appearance for the Scottish League against the English League at Ibrox a month later.

A full League cap was earned in September 1957, Bernie scoring in a 5-1 victory over the League of Ireland in Dublin.

At 12st 7lbs on a 5ft 9in frame, Kelly was not the most the most mobile or athletic of footballers, but he possessed a natural footballing brain, ball skills in abundance and packed a ferocious shot.

And when Leicester City manager David Halliday dangled a cheque for 8,250 in front of the Raith Directors in late July 1958, they and their star midfield player agreed to a parting of the ways.

His stay at Filbert Street was brief, ending with a transfer to Nottingham Forest in April 1959, but prolific, with 15 goals from 27 first team appearances.

Kelly's time by the Trent was even shorter (two League outings and a Charity Shield appearance), and in September 1959 he was transferred to Aberdeen.

A year at Pittodrie yielded just one goal from four first team appearances, and he returned to Stark's Park in late August 1960.

Four goals from 19 appearances helped the club escape relegation, but Kelly was having difficulty recovering from injuries, and he was freed at the end of the season.

A solitary appearance for Cowdenbeath the following season was made before Bernie and his family emigrated to North America.

He was a frequent visitor to his family in Lanarkshire, and a holiday caravan at Leven, and he kept in touch with former Rovers team-mates, notably the late Andy Leigh, and Willie Penman.

He died after a long battle with cancer, and leaves sons John and Stuart, daughters Elizabeth and Margaret, and five grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by his wife Alice.