Latics announced on Monday that 35-year-old Kelly, a managerial novice, would be taking the reins at SportsDirect.com Park.
Although chairman Simon Corney and the board have a history of handing aspiring bosses their first step on the ladder, Kelly, who has coached youth teams at York and Sunderland, was certainly a left-field choice.
And so while Corney is confident he can be a success with the League One outfit, the club are also prepared to refund those who have already made a financial commitment to next term and are less than pleased with Kelly’s hiring.
“The appointment of Darren Kelly has no doubt surprised many people but he is a young, passionate manager with the necessary desire, drive and will to succeed,” Corney said on the club’s official website.
“It is his first role and therefore can be viewed as a risk, but having interviewed and spoken with him on several occasions, one that I believe is worth taking.
“We do understand, however, that some fans have concerns over the appointment, and to those who have already made the financial commitment for next season, we are offering to give them a full refund should they wish to take it.
“Supporters show great loyalty to this club through their purchase of season tickets and by offering this refund we hope to show how much the club values this.
“I would however like to take the opportunity to urge all supporters to get behind Darren and with the opening of the new North Stand, look forward to exciting times both on and off the pitch next season.”
Speaking at Kelly’s unveiling on Tuesday, Corney had attempted to justify the board’s decision by pointing out how successful former boss Lee Johnson, himself a surprise appointment back in 2013, was at SportsDirect.com Park.
“There’s concern with every manager,” said Corney.
“If I got an experienced manager, people would say why don’t they have a young up-and-coming manager like a Karl Robinson or Eddie Howe?
“I remember when we signed Lee Johnson. One guy came and threw his season ticket book at me and said, ‘I’m never coming again because you’ve got a young, inexperienced manager’.
“Then, when Lee left, he came and threw the same season ticket at me and said, ‘I can’t believe you’re going to let him go, take my season ticket book back’.
“That’s the way it is in football. Darren’s under no illusion, it’s about results. If we do well, we all look very smart and Darren will be looked upon as the next great young manager.
“If things don’t go well, we’ll have to look at that as well but I’m not looking in that direction. I firmly believe we’ve got somebody here who is going to bring a lot to the game.”