This interview first appeared in the Crystal Palace v Manchester City matchday programme.
Having waited patiently for his chance, Martin Kelly admits that his recent spell in the Eagles first-team has been a bittersweet experience.
The defender has featured in each of Palace’s last 10 Premier League games which constitutes his longest run in the division during his career, and in that time he has proved his versatility by featuring at both left-back and right-back in the continued absence of Pape Souare.
However the recent run of five successive defeats means that Kelly hasn’t had much of a chance to enjoy a winning changing room post-match, but is taking a little solace from seeing his name on the teamsheet regularly.
“It’s been good for me to get a run of games but I wish it had been one where we’d won a few more,” he admitted. “I’ve played mostly at left-back but I’d play anywhere for this club. I prefer to play right-back, and I hope there’s a point where I play centre-half as I think that’s where I’ll be in the coming years, but right-back is more familiar. However I’ll play anywhere in the team – to pull on a Palace shirt is a proud thing.
“I feel like every game is different at left-back, for instance in the game against Liverpool they tried to show me onto my right foot which was difficult, but I feel like I’m improving.”
A fortnight ago Kelly switched to his preferred right-back position against Burnley, but the final whistle would once again bring no points after 90 enthralling minutes. The form table shows five straight losses but not the nature of them, and the 26-year-old is hoping for a little bit of fortune to help turn things around.
Looking back on recent weeks, he suggested: “We have been unlucky; there’ve been games where we could have left with something but that’s how ruthless the Premier League is. The manager will be working on the team going forward to try and get some points around the Christmas period.
“We’re a team full of fighters and that’s what we’ve got to do going forward. We’ve got a tough run of games coming up and we need to get some points on the board.”
That will start today against Manchester City as Pep Guardiola experiences the famous Selhurst Park atmosphere for the first time. Kelly feels that despite the daunting challenge, the crowd can play a big part to try and claim a similar success to the one against City in April 2015 – a game that saw the one-time capped England man play the full 90 minutes at left-back.
“It’ll be a difficult game but we’ll want to get something out of it,” he assessed. “They’re playing really well under Pep; they look like a different team to last season and will be real title contenders. It’s a league where the teams with a lot of money and backing behind them have added well and look really strong.
“If you ask any of the lads we want to get some results for the manager. We’ve got a tough run of games and we need to show our character in them. We did that against Liverpool as they were really on their game in the first half, but credit to the fans as when we got it back to 2-2, the chants that they were singing made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. They were brilliant and I’m sure they’ll be the same against City, and that will help to spur us on.”