1903 - 1904
(28 games as manager)
Manager of Hibernian for one season, Phil Kelso moved on to newly promoted Woolwich Arsenal in 1904.
Born near the Firth of Clyde, Phil Kelso did not play professional football and came to the game as an administrator.
He managed Hibernian for season 1903/04, taking over from Dan McMichael who guided the club to successes in both the Scottish Cup and the League.
In 1904 and at the age of 33, Kelso made the move south, taking over Woolwich Arsenal immediately after their promotion to the first division for the first time. He was manager for four years and his greatest triumph, apart from keeping the club in the first division, which was big enough in itself, was to break out of the rut of early exits from the FA Cup. For two years running Kelso managed Arsenal to the semi-finals – a feat that put the remote Kent based club on the footballing map.
Kelso was part of Arsenal’s early Scottish tradition, as befits a club set up by the Scottish employees of the armaments factory. The London club regard Kelso as one of the great innovators, paving the way for the major changes of Chapman and Wenger in subsequent centuries.
Financial troubles at Arsenal were to bring about the demise of the club during season 1909/10 and although Kelso was a firm manager of men, he was seemingly not a man to cope with managing a club in financial difficulty (or maybe he just didn’t agree with the approach). Kelso resigned, seemingly before the end of that season, returning to Scotland to manage a hotel.
Kelso's hotelier days were short lived however, as Fulham brought him back to London a year later, subsequent to the death of their manager Bradshaw. Kelso stayed with Fulham to become their longest serving manager. Taking over Fulham in May 1909, Kelso remained there until the end of the 1923/24 season.
Having kept Arsenal up, he did the same at Fulham, keeping them in the Second Division and avoiding the drop back into the Southern League throughout his years in the club. He was again faced with financial difficulties, but this time he remained at the Cottagers, fighting off an attempt from Arsenal chairman Henry Norris to merge both Fulham and the Gunners.
Kelso finally left football through his own choice at 53, and he became landlord of The Grove in Hammersmith and then the Rising Sun in the Fulham Road. He was also chairman of the Football League Managers and Secretaries association.
Passing away on the 13th February 1935, Kelso is buried in Sheen Cemetery, London.
Full name Philip Wade Kelso
Date of birth 26th May 1871
Place of birth Largs, Scotland