BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Crystal Palace defender Martin Kelly has announced that he will be leaving the club with his contract set to end this summer.
The announcement brings an end to a near eight-year career after signing for the SE25 outfit in August 2014.
In a message posted on his social media channels early this morning the former Liverpool defender wrote:
“To the fans, owners and managers at Crystal Palace FC – thank you from me and my family. Since joining [in] August 2014 you guys have welcomed us like family.
“The loyalty you have shown us over the years I’ve always tried to repay with leaving nothing out there on the pitch.
“I came into a dressing room full of big characters and our top priority was always to compete in the Premier League. We did that. I feel now with the current manager and group of players, you guys have the best chance of going even further the next few seasons.
“Special memories me and my family will enjoy forever. Enjoy the summer guys and we look forward to seeing you guys in the future.”
Kelly will be best known in his time in South London for his solitary strike in his 176 career appearances for the club – a sublime winner against Tottenham Hotspur in the fifth round of the FA Cup in 2016.
Kelly was Tony Pulis’ last signing for Palace, with the former Stoke manager leaving just hours after securing the services of the player who earned a place in Roy Hodgson’s England Euro 2012 squad having made his full international debut a few months earlier in place of the injured Gary Cahill.
Kelly has been a fringe player for the Eagles and played just once this season, against Hartlepool in the FA Cup. He also only appeared once last season in the EFL Cup – in addition to a one-minute cameo away at Liverpool in the final league game of Palace’s season.
Prior to that he was well-known for his adaptability and reliability around the back four, playing across all four positions and part of numerous centre-back pairings as then Palace boss Hodgson suffered from numerous defensive injuries to a variety of players including Cahill, James Tomkins, Mamadou Sakho and Scott Dann amongst others.
After his post, a variety of current and former Palace players expressed their best wishes. Wilfried Zaha simply posted a heart, while former striker Dwight Gayle called him a “legend”.
Current goalkeepers Jack Butland and Remi Matthews also posted their own messages with Butland saying, “Going to be missed brother, can’t wait to see what the future holds for you! See you soon.” Matthews said: “Legend, all the best mate.”
Palace boss Patrick Vieira recently told the South London Press that Kelly was a “professional role model” for the youngsters at the club and a “really good professional”.
At the end of June and before the announcement of Joel Ward’s contract extension, Kelly was the club’s longest-serving, continuous player.
PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD