In the spring of 1927, as Everton were faced with the unimaginable spectre of relegation, the board sought to secure the club’s future by bringing in fresh blood to tighten a leaky defence and strengthen the resolve of a team in freefall.
From Sunderland they bought right back Warney Cresswell, once the world’s most expensive player, and from Huddersfield Town the England international goalkeeper, Ted Taylor. The inside forwards Dick Forshaw and Tom Weldon would soon be added to this number and from Ayr United came the half back Jerry Kelly. Not only would these men avert the calamity of relegation during the 1926/27 season, but within barely a year of their arrivals they would help propel Everton to their third League Championship success.
The 25-year-old Kelly took the place of William Brown and immediately brought some composure and resolve to a back line that would concede nearly 100 League and FA Cup goals by the season’s end. ‘In Kelly Everton would seem to have acquired a half-back of the right type,’ reported the Liverpool Post and Mercury of his debut against Liverpool at Anfield. ‘Splendidly built (tall and slim) he played a capital game once he found his feet and plied the forwards with excellent passes.’
‘I like this man Kelly; he is quick to size up a situation, and with Cresswell behind him we have a right flank of defenders who can become a secure attacking number,’ added the distinguished hand of Ernest ‘Bee’ Edwards. ‘Cresswell’s nonchalance is not out of place; he believes in working a ball, just as does Kelly, and with Hart finding his captaincy and team care less arduous, he is producing first-class defence and attack.'
The turnaround in Everton’s fortunes after Kelly’s arrival was astounding. But although a league champion within 14 months of joining Everton, injuries to Dixie Dean meant Everton struggled in the 1928/29 season and Kelly found his place under threat from Tom Griffiths. He was restored to the team for the start of the 1929/30 season but Everton’s form was poor and so too was Kelly’s.
‘Kelly was a weakness,’ reported the Post and Mercury of a 2-3 home defeat to Manchester City. ‘He was out of touch with the line, got little of the ball, and most of the City’s damaging raids came from Kelly’s wing.’ He played just once more in an Everton shirt and was subsequently transfer-listed. After Everton were relegated at the end of the season Kelly joined Carlisle United for £500. He is later recorded as playing for Rennes University Club.