Two men have been arrested after a death threat was sent to the Darren Kelly, the new manager of Oldham Athletic football club.
Kelly, a former Northern Ireland under-21 defender, was appointed by the club last week. There was an immediate reaction around Oldham due to a tweet from Kelly sent on February 18th in which he described Martin McGuinness as “#legend”.
Kelly’s uncle, Michael, was killed by the British Army on Bloody Sunday in 1972.
Two men, aged 27 and 42, were arrested on suspicion of making threats to kill and remain in custody, Greater Manchester police said.
“The letter sent to the club made some extremely serious threats to a number of individuals and we are treating this matter with the utmost seriousness,” detective inspector Jason Byrne said.
“We are also aware of equally vitriolic comments that have been made on social media and this too forms part of our investigation.
“We have made two arrests and anticipate more.”
Oldham chief executive Simon Corney offered to refund any season tickets to those upset by the 35-year-old Derry man's appointment.
Seriousness No one is believed to have taken Corney up on his offer but the seriousness of the situation changed on Monday morning after the club received a letter that threatened Kelly.
The police were immediately called to Boundary Park stadium and the club released a statement saying the matter was in the hands of the authorities.
Kelly responded to the initial furore surrounding his appointment, saying: “It has been blown out of proportion.
“There is nothing in it whatsoever. I have deleted Twitter, though not on the back of that. My account went into meltdown.
“At the end of the day, I am a family man and the manager of this great football club. That is what my life is about and I have no political views in that.”
Kelly remains the manager. Previous Oldham boss Lee Johnson left for Barnsley in February, after which Dean Holden took temporary charge.
Holden has been appointed as Kelly’s assistant and they spent Monday dealing with releasing and retaining players for next season.
Kelly was a shock appointment. From the Creggan, he played for Derry City initially and was transferred to Carlisle United in 2002 for £100,000.
Kelly returned to Derry via Portadown in 2006 and a year later moved back to England with York City.
Having earned his coaching badges – Kelly has the Uefa Pro Licence – he joined Sunderland’s academy as a coach five months ago.
“I’m leaving Sunderland with a heavy heart,” Kelly said at the time, “but I really don’t think I could turn down the challenge of managing a club in League One.
“I’ve no doubt that I will face a very tough challenge, but I believe I’m ready for it and, hopefully, I will be in a position to help lead the club towards the business end of League One next season.”