Over the years there have been plenty of examples to back up the theory that you must be a certain level of crazy to be a goalkeeper.
As supporters, we have been captivated by the antics of the likes of Fabien Barthez, Jorge Campos and Rene Higuita. Plus, who could forget ‘Well legend Sieb Dijkstra?
Though it seems like times are changing.
Motherwell and Scotland keeper Liam Kelly’s personality could not be further removed from the names mentioned above. A cool and composed figure on and off the pitch, the 25-year-old prefers to take a more laid-back approach over berating his defence.
His methods seem to be paying off. In the first three months of the new campaign, Kelly has continued the sparkling form he demonstrated during his loan spell at Fir Park last season, producing several big performances and captaining the Steelmen in the absence of Stephen O’Donnell.
“I just want to be a normal guy,” Kelly said. “I’m quite relaxed off the pitch and try to be composed in everything that I do.
“For me to go on the pitch and start shouting and bawling, that’s not what I’m like.
“On the pitch, I’ll try to speak normally and give clear instructions from what the manager has said before the game. Of course, there are times that you will need to shout, but I never speak negatively or get on anyone’s back if they make a mistake.
“The crazy goalkeeper thing, I suppose it comes down to each person’s personality, you get very calm goalkeepers, and you get ones who are a bit crazy.
“It’s only a game of football at the end of the day. You’ll probably be going home to do the same thing no matter what the score is. I go out there and give everything I’ve got, if that’s good enough then amazing, if it isn’t on that day you’ve got to move on to the next game and try again.
“When I’m shouting it’s to be positive and to encourage. If I’m speaking to the centre backs then I’ll not have to raise my voice. Obviously the further away the player is on the pitch, the louder I need to be.
“I try not to be generic or waffle for the sake of it. That’s the last thing I want. I hate it myself when I hear players shouting the same generic rubbish that’s having no effect on the actual match.”
After his superb displays during his loan spell in the second half of last season saw him scoop the club’s Players’ Player of the Year award, Motherwell fans were desperate to see Kelly sign a permanent deal at Fir Park.
In early July they would get their wish as the keeper signed on a permanent basis, joining from Queen’s Park Rangers on a three-year deal.
It was a signing that was hailed as a real coup for the Steelmen. But it was a decision that the keeper says came easy – dismissing the notion that swapping the English Championship for the Scottish Premiership was in any way a backwards step.
“If I was going back to Queen’s Park Rangers I was going back as a number two to a good goalkeeper there,” he added. “For Motherwell to give me the opportunity to come and play was great and took me a step towards where I want to get to.
“I know the process at Motherwell, how the manager works and how the staff are. I really liked the plan sold to me by the manager. Returning here is a chance for me to progress and get better. That was the main driving force in me coming back to the club in the summer, he told me where I fitted in to his plans.
“From the minute I walked in the door at Fir Park I felt welcome, everyone couldn’t have been more helpful. I also get on great with my goalkeeping coach Craig Hinchliffe too, he is one of the top goalkeeping coaches in the country.
“I knew that coming back here I’d be happy, settled and would enjoy coming to my work every day.”
Having continually performed brilliantly between the sticks for Motherwell, it came as little surprise when Steve Clarke rewarded Liam’s displays with a call-up to the Scotland squad for the fixtures against Denmark, Moldova, and Austria.
It was the first time he had been included in the squad since 2019 and he was selected again for the October encounters with Israel and the Faroe Islands, in which the Scots took massive strides towards earning a World Cup play-off place.
With caps at every level from Under 16 through to Under 21, a full Scotland cap is still the one accolade missing from Kelly’s international CV, and he is determined to keep pushing towards the goal of making his debut for the national team.
He also admits the chance to play a part in helping Scotland to their first World Cup in almost a quarter of a century would be a dream.
“The atmosphere inside the Scotland camp is amazing,” he explained. “It’s a real pleasure and joy to go work with these guys.
“Ultimately you want to stay in the squad and the only way to do that is by playing well for your club – that’s the most important thing.
“The manager has a great relationship with the players and there’s a massive element of trust there, it’s a really great place to be a part of. It helps that the results have been good recently, but even after the Denmark game when we lost 2-0 we never got too low – the manager was very calm and level-headed. That made a huge difference in us picking up big wins in the games that followed.
“I love going away with Scotland and I love playing with Motherwell. My main target is to keep doing well for the club and to stay into the Scotland squad for as long as I can.
“Going to the World Cup would be amazing. It’s something that many unbelievable players haven’t managed to do. If I was ever so lucky enough to get the opportunity, it would be the best thing that has happened to my career and probably ever would happen.
“There’s still a long way to go though, and we have to take it one step at a time. I’m not daft, I’ve got enough awareness to know that Craig Gordon is playing unbelievably well and I’m a big fan of how he plays. It’s not a surprise to me to see him playing so well at Hearts and the position of him playing for Scotland is totally justified.
“You are only with Scotland for such a short period of time, but I think we’ve pushed him hard in training and Craig continues to play out of his skin. Long may that continue for the benefit of the country.”
With the experience of having played over 150 professional games and being involved with the national team, Kelly is well placed to offer advice to the young goalkeepers at Fir Park.
The 18-year-old Matty Connelly is currently out on loan with Gretna 2008, while PJ Morrison has had spells with Ayr, Falkirk, Cowdenbeath, Clyde and Albion Rovers.
Liam is no stranger to having gone out on loan to build his experience, having had time out on loan at East Fife and Livingston while he was at Rangers, as well as his five months with ‘Well at the end of last season.
He credits those moves as being crucial for his development and believes that both Connelly and Morrison have bright futures ahead of them.
“I’ve said this to Matty and PJ on a number of occasions, you are better playing at a lower level than not playing at the highest level,” he explained. “If you aren’t playing then people don’t know anything about you, they don’t see what you can do.
“You are better just playing games, no matter what level presents itself and whatever level you are meant to be playing at, that’ll work out itself based on your performances and ability.
“Matty is above the level he is playing at just now in my opinion and that’s been clear by his performances. Unfortunately, he’s picked up a really bad injury, but he’ll be back from that no problem knowing what type of character he is.
“PJ is a brilliant keeper with a lot of attributes that will help him play in the Premiership when he is a bit older. He just needs to get some games under his belt.
“It’s so important, as you get older you get used to the environment of a first-team dressing room and a key factor in that is racking up the games. Matty is doing that just now and PJ did it early on in his career, he’s sort of stuck just now as he’s third-choice keeper and is required here, but he trains hard every day and by that, I mean at a top, top level.
“The goalkeeping department at Motherwell is in a good place, we just need to keep trying to push each other. Everyone is fighting for the number one jersey and I’m aware of that. It is strong competition and that’s something that I enjoy.”
Competition and footballing talent is something that seems to run throughout the Kelly family, with Liam’s older brother Sean playing for Livingston and his 14-year-old sibling on the books of St Mirren as a goalkeeper.
Earlier this season, Liam and Sean had their first-ever meeting in a competitive fixture as Motherwell edged out Livingston 2-1 at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
Although he was pleased that his team claimed victory on the day, the ‘Well stopper confesses that given his time with the Lothian club, fixtures against Livingston bring with them mixed emotions.
“I think that’s the first time it has happened in a professional game, I previously played against him when I was at Rangers and he was at Queen’s Park,” Kelly recalled. “When we play Livingston it’s the only time that I want them to lose, I’ve got such a strong connection with the club and the staff there. I’m never that high if I get a win against Livi.
“In terms of my brother, I was delighted to see him play in Livingston’s win at Ross County. He had a positive impact in a great result for them. It’s the first result I look out for after our own games.
“Hopefully he can stay in the team and help them push up the table. You just want to see your family do well.”
As we approach a hectic run of fixtures between now and the end of the year, Kelly is looking forward to trying to help ‘Well move up the league table.
In his typically relaxed nature, he is keen to stress the importance of not looking too far ahead, though he is determined to continue to play a big role at the club and reward the fans for their support.
“Motherwell have been really good to me, and I think I’ve been good for Motherwell too. Ultimately I want that relationship to continue.
“That’s the only thing I’m in control of now, I control how I train and if the manager picks me, then I have control of how I play in the matches.
“I’m not trying to look too far ahead and say I’m going to do this and do that. That’s not my character at all. I want to do well at the things that I control and everything after that is a bonus.
“I’m absolutely delighted the fans are back, we all want to make them as happy as possible. We have had some good results so far and now we need to get back to picking up wins and kicking on to finish as high up in the table as possible.”
By Andy Ross