Everton's first manager, Theo Kelly assumed the post at the end of the 1938-39 season. Previously the club's secretary, his talent for organisation coupled with an instinctive commercial awareness enabled Kelly to improve the club's public image and financial situation. Unfortunately, those impressive organisational skills were less visible on the field.
In his early years as manager, Kelly became well known in footballing circles for his distrust of the transfer market. Perhaps influenced by his extensive administrative experience, Kelly's preference was to avoid transfers except in exceptional situations, focusing instead on the players already in place.
Unfortunately, having been forced by the wartime suspension of the Football League to resort to regional football, Kelly's regular side found adapting to the rigours of the post-war league difficult. This awkward transitional period saw developing friction between Kelly and players who increasingly perceived him as uncommunicative.
Angering many fans with his 1945 sale of restless pre-war crowd favourite Tommy Lawton to League rivals Chelsea, the departure of Joe Mercer added to the woes of the manager. Having gambled on a big name transfer, Kelly's hopes of bringing in Albert Stubbins from Newcastle United to fill the gap in the attacking line-up were dashed by a rival bid from Liverpool.
With a disillusioned side perched on the brink of the relegation zone, Kelly reverted to his previous position of secretary in 1948, leaving the club in an excellent financial condition, but needing a manager with a firmer grasp of the game itself.