Canterbury Utd reels from exodus

Last updated 00:00 01/01/2009

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Bottom-of-the-table Canterbury United has been left reeling by skipper Stuart Kelly's departure for Melbourne while ex-All Whites striker Blair Scoullar has also quit the national football league club.

Kelly leaves Christchurch today after accepting an offer from Victorian Premier League club Oakleigh Cannons.

But Canterbury United coach Danny Halligan said the club had yet to receive an approach from Oakleigh for Kelly's signature.

"I understand that Stuart is leaving (Tuesday) morning, but at this stage the club has received no formal request for a release from his current contract. Until we do, we can't make any comment."

Halligan said Kelly -- a former Glasgow Rangers junior who emigrated here in 2004 from Scottish third division club East Stirlingshire -- was contracted to Canterbury United for the rest of the New Zealand Football Championship season. "Until we receive a formal request and some form of reimbursement or compensation, we can't do much to help Stuart."

Kelly told The Press earlier yesterday he felt "pretty bad, especially for Danny", for leaving Canterbury in the middle of the season but he had to get to Melbourne to prepare for the Victorian season, which kicks off next month.

The 26-year-old Glaswegian said he was at a time in his career when he had "to make a selfish decision".

"I just feel the time is right," he said.

Oakleigh had courted him for two years since he scored two goals for Canterbury in the 2005-06 NZFC grand final.

Kelly -- who doubled as Woolston Technical's Mainland league player-coach -- admitted it had been frustrating watching Canterbury struggle this season after losing a lot of experienced players. But it had been a tough decision to leave Christchurch because he was "pretty loyal" and had "made a lot of new friends here". "I feel really at home here and at this stage I think I'll definitely be coming back."

He admitted he had "a dodgy start", taking time to settle in to the city and the New Zealand game in his first season, but the NZFC grand final was "the highlight". Kelly was the individual star as Canterbury lost to Auckland City in a penalty shoot-out.

Meanwhile, Halligan confirmed Cromwell-based Scoullar played his last game for Canterbury in Saturday's 0-2 away defeat to Otago United. Scoullar, 30, gave the club two weeks notice on January 1, but Halligan said it had decided not to select him for the next NZFC match against Auckland City on Sunday.

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"Blair cited that the commuting and travelling wasn't helping him and he felt as if the club wasn't getting the best out of him and he didn't want to stand in the way of young lads who were training hard and who felt deserve the opportunity (to play)," Halligan said.

He said he had not yet given any thought to a new captain but the problem is compounded by the absence of vice-captain Andy Pitman through work commitments.

He now has a depleted squad after earlier losing Chris Morris (retired) and young utility Darren Overton (injury). But he cannot call on reinforcements until the NZFC transfer window opens on February 11.

 

- The Press

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