Photo by manu mangalassery/ CC0 1.0

The first thing that strikes onlookers about Lloyd Kelly is his size. At 1.90m (6’2”) in height, he towers over most other players.

His height is matched by his wiry yet powerful physique, gained through more than a decade of athletic training. When you add his precision kicking skills to the pot, it’s easy to see why he has commanded so much attention as of late.

It’s not Kelly’s physical size alone that has enabled his rise to the Premier League, however. The credit also goes to his incredible spirit, which has seen him through difficult circumstances time and again throughout his 20 years of life.

Struggling to Find His Place in the World

Kelly, along with his brother and sister, was in foster care situations from ages six to 18. He lived in three different households during those 12 years.

The sometimes precarious situation was balanced by the remarkable compassion and support Kelly and his siblings received from their care providers. “I’m grateful for what everyone has done for us,” he said in a recent interview. “They didn’t have to; it was nice that they (the carers) were willing to take us in and help us.”

Kelly’s talent for football was noticed early in life. At age 11 he began playing for the Robins, gaining early recognition for his defensive skills. His size and speed make him a strong defender, yet one who can quickly switch to offense as the need arises.

Making the Move to the Premier League

For Kelly, the jump from Bristol City to Bournemouth came as a result of Eddie Howe’s search for fresh young talent. Howe clearly believes that he can take relatively inexperienced players and groom them into reliable long-term assets.

His instinct is on-the-money where Kelly is concerned. The 20-year-old displays an almost uncanny ability to read his opponent’s minds and stay a step ahead. For example, he knows when to press an attack that incites a response from midfield, creating an opportunity for a goal-scoring kick.

Yet he also excels at defence. This makes him an outstanding all-around player, the kind his teammates can count on when the heat becomes intense. His ability, which is clear from bookmaker websites, will surely be seen on the Fox Bet platform this fall.

Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem/ CC0 1.0

Raw Potential Needing Refinement

That’s not to say that Kelly doesn’t face a learning curve. His passing skills could use some polishing, a common problem with players who are still developing. While sport puts a premium on youth, there’s so substitute for experience.

Fortunately, Howe is the ideal person to assume the mentoring role. He has proven himself to be an exceptional manager, ever since injuries sidelined his own playing career back in 2007.

We all know the debt that Bournemouth owes to its erstwhile leader. With the transfer of Kelly, he continues to build his legacy.

The Price of Victory

Howe has come under criticism for his willingness to pay hefty agent fees. However, as the Yanks say, that’s the price of doing business. Top talent comes with a top price tag.

Kelly was acquired at a reported cost of £13m. “It was a no-brainer,” the defender said about the decision to sign with the Cherries. “I’m still young and developing as a player and as a person, so I feel like this is probably the best move for me.”

For Bournemouth, Defense is Everything

There’s no doubt that Bournemouth could use some shoring up where its defence is concerned. The club conceded 70 goals last season, making some question its fitness for the Premier League.

It’s never easy for the new kid on the block, of course. Memories of the fourth tier still haunt long-time Bournemouth fans. The question on their minds is whether the newcomers can live up to the trust that Howe places in them.

This places a lot of weight on the shoulders of young players like Lloyd Kelly, who must refine their skills in the face of heated competition.

If the past is any indication however, the young man who rose from foster care to the top of his game will prove himself up to the challenge. Here’s looking forward to a splendid season.