John ‘JJ’ Melligan

Few players in the Football League era at Harriers had a bigger impact than loan youngster JJ Melligan

John Melligan
John Melligan

IT’S amazing what a stint of competitive first-team football can do for your career.

It seems that there’s no player more grateful or benefiting from a temporary spell away from a parent club than John ‘JJ’ Melligan, who was idolised by Harriers fans during two loan stints from Wolves between 2002 and 2003.

The young Wolf cub arrived from Molineux along with another hungry youngster, Mark Clyde, back in September 2002 in time for a debut at now Championship side Scunthorpe United.

“Ian Britton wanted me to come on loan and it was absolutely brilliant, I had no hesitation in coming,” JJ recalled, when we caught up with some years later.

“I ended up playing something like 30 games in that first season and it was so much different to reserve-team football at Wolves, it was a great experience.

“It was much quicker and much more competitive – the players were a lot hungrier I think.”

Melligan was gifted a ‘free role’ in midfield for Harriers, the licence to create seemingly something unheard of in the then Third Division climate.

“Not a lot of teams played that way or were willing to try it so I couldn’t believe it but it suited me down to the ground,” he continued.

“I’m quite an attacking player and in a 4-4-2 I was never really suited to it – in fact, Ian Britton used to demand that I not defend, which was a bit surprising, he always wanted me to look for openings up the pitch.

“I got my first goal when Sean Flynn put me through down at Southend – I was feeling great during the game itself and I just picked a corner and hit it – I remember jumping on Ian Britton to celebrate, I was happy to do well for him even though I got stick for it from the lads for quite a while!”

JJ was part of arguably Harriers’ most successful Football League side. Under the guidance of Ian Britton, the youngster and his team mates reached second place in the Third Division – the highest position to date in the history of the club.

It was in no small thanks to a rather convincing and memorable 4-0 win at The Vetch Field, the now former home of once strugglers Swansea.

“That win at Swansea is one of the best memories I have in my career, we absolutely destroyed them,” Melligan continued.

“We went second in the league with that win too so everyone was over the moon, I think it was probably the best team performance I’ve ever been involved with even to this day.

“It was a very, very good game because Swansea even then were a good side and we gave them a trouncing!”

Although the play-off campaign eventually faded that season, more goals and positive performances were to follow for JJ, who was picked for the Republic of Ireland U21 squad on the evidence of his classy showing and two-goal haul at Cambridge United.

Although he later departed the club – though not before a later, shorter second spell that ended when Britton was sacked – Melligan went on to make his debut back at Wolves.

Turned away by new Harriers boss Jan Molby and then powerless to watch the side struggle – ironically at one stage at his own hands during a spell at Doncaster – the former Bournemouth loanee admitted his disappointment at Harriers’ eventual relegation from the Football League.

He said: “It was devastating – Kidderminster have helped me tremendously in my career and it was so hard to see them struggling and go down.

“It wasn’t my decision to leave there and I was hurt when Jan Molby said he didn’t think he had a place for me in his squad.

“I played against them for Doncaster the season before Kiddy went down and that was hard for me.”

Melligan went on to play 114 times for Cheltenham Town in the Football League before also turning out for Leyton Orient, ending his career in non-league football around 2014.

He went on to add: “Kidderminster kicked-off my career and gave me a chance and without them I wouldn’t [have played] League football; I would have gone home and got a job in a factory or something.

“The fans were great – they gave me a bit of stick when I moved to Cheltenham but that’s to be expected!

“I’d like to say thanks for the great time they gave me and it was a pleasure to play for them and for Kidderminster.”

This article is about: Alumni


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