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PersonalFullname: John Angus Paul Collins
aka: John Collins, Johnny Collins, Johnny-C.
Born: 31 January 1968
Birthplace: Galashiels, Scotland
Signed: 13 July 1990 (£1m from Hibernian)
Left: 1 August 1996 (Free to Monaco)
Position: Midfielder (attacking)
First game: Ayr United home 4-0 league cup 22 August 1990
Last game: Partick Thistle away 4-2 league 27 April 1996
First goal: Saint Johnstone away 2-3 league 22 December 1990
Last goal: Aberdeen away 2-1 league 14 January 1996
International Caps: 58
International Goals: 12
BiogDuring the dark days of the early 90s there were few bright moments, and even fewer bright players. Amongst the exceptions to the rule was John Collins, a Celtic fan as a boy who group up in the Borders before starring for Hibs in the midfield. The classy player caught the eye of both sides of the Old Firm with Rangers trying to snatch him from under Celtic’s nose. Thankfully he chose to come to Celtic for a transfer fee of around £1m to Hibs (our first million pound signing). Losing him to the Dark Side is not a thought to even contemplate.
Along with Paul McStay he helped to shore up what were overall poor teams, regardless of whatever our opinions of individual players. If there was one area (and most likely the only one) where we were better than Rangers in the early 90s was an entertaining dominant midfield, masterfully controlled by McStay with Collins in tow. Too often overshadowed by Paul McStay (the fans favourite, especially amongst older fans), youngsters in general seemed to prefer Collins. McStay was never aggressive and attacking enough too often, although this was likely also as he to play too much an anchor position to haul in the team. This gave room to Collins to play the attacking role, and he played it well. His touches were great and his support play was excellent.
His high point came in two successive Celtic v Rangers games where in each game he scored a peach of a free-kick against Rangers (both being mirror images of each others). The notable fact (for any anoraks out there) is that the first of them was the first scored using the then new and revolutionary lauded Adidas Predator Boots (which were all the rage in the papers back then).
Another memorable moment in Collins' time at Celtic was a hat-trick scored against Hearts. Indeed, the hat-trick was mentioned on the BBC evening news at a time when little attention was paid to Scottish football south of the border.
One personal high point for Collins was the match after being slated by journalist Gerry McNee in one of his Sunday Mail columns for being over-rated. He scored a couple in the game and bagged PoTM on the same day and sarcastically dedicated it to McNee. (Note: Gerry McNee was a sycophantic pandering poodle to Rangers through much of that period (as for much later on!), and his incessant attacks on Celtic were always pathetic).
Regardless of his talent, Celtic achieved next to nothing in silverware during much of his tenure, but that was not his fault in anyway being, as said, one of the better players during that time with sadly only the Scottish Cup in 1995 to show. It is frightening to think how much worse we would have been if he had not come to us. After 6 years at the club, he ended up moving onto Monaco in controversial circumstances at the end of his contract, moving on a free which saw Fergus McCann (Celtic’s Chief Exec at the time) take Monaco to court. Bizarrely, the courts judged that Monaco in football terms were classed as a French Club even though its not in the EU so we got no money on his transfer!
Collins also had a successful international career. He represented Scotland fifty-eight times and scored on twelve occasions. A memorable highlight of his Scotland career was playing in France '98, scoring against eventual runners up Brazil.
He had a successful spell at Monaco (where they reached the European Cup Semis knocking out Man U), followed by another at Everton and Fulham in England before retiring from playing football. He returned to Edinburgh and replaced former team-mate Tony Mowbray as the manager of Hibs, but it didn't work out and he soon left that in acrimonious circumstances.
Quotes"The ultimate experience"
John Collins on Celtic v Rangers games, 1997
|Club||From||To||Fee||League||Scottish/FA Cup||League cup||Other|
|Fulham||14/07/2000||02/06/2003||£2,000,000||54 (11)||3||5 (1)||0||4 (0)||1||3 (1)||0|
|Everton||01/08/1998||14/07/2000||£2,500,000||52 (3)||3||4 (0)||0||3 (2)||1||0 (0)||0|
|Monaco||01/08/1996||01/08/1998||Free||0 (0)||0||0 (0)||0||0 (0)||0||4 (0)||0|
|Celtic||13/07/1990||01/08/1996||£1,000,000||218 (3)||47||2 (0)||0||3 (0)||1||3 (0)||0|
|Hibernian||01/08/1984||13/07/1990||Signed||163 (0)||15||0 (0)||0||0 (0)||0||0 (0)||0|
|Totals||£5,500,000||487 (17)||68||11 (1)||0||10 (2)||3||10 (1)||0|
| ||goals / game||0.13||0||0.25||0|
Honours with CelticScottish Cup
The Celtic View Interview (Feb 2012) Do you remember how your move to Celtic came about?
I was playing at Hibs at the time and I was at the World Cup, for Italia ‘90, when I first heard Celtic were interested. My agent phoned me and said Celtic would like to speak to me when I got home. So when I came back I took the phone call. Billy McNeill came down to my home base in the Borders to meet me and that’s where most of the discussions took place. That’s where it all began and it was a very, very special day as you can imagine. Like every other Celtic supporter growing up my dream was to play for them. All the pictures of me when I was a kid was me wearing my Celtic strip so to then be standing there for the photo-shoot, with the Hoops on, was a very special moment. Not just for me – the whole family too because they are all Celtic supporters so that made it extra special.
What went through your mind when you first found out Celtic were interested in you?
It was exciting of course. I initially thought I was moving to France because I had spoken to Bordeaux but then Celtic came on the phone – and then Rangers too – and it was a very exciting time. It was nice to feel wanted, especially by your boyhood heroes.
With Rangers also sniffing around, was signing for Celtic a difficult decision to make?
No, no, no. There was no doubt about it. My heart was in the green and white half of Glasgow.
Did the transfer help move on from the disappointment of not getting out of the group stages at the World Cup?
Yes, I was refocused as soon as I got home and then I signed the contract. It was exciting getting ready for the new season ahead, it was a new adventure. My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, had just finished university so it was a perfect time to move through to Glasgow. It was an almighty challenge as well because Rangers were the force in Scotland. They were one of, if not the, richest club in Britain. Whereas Celtic were not so affluent, so it was challenging - but exciting at the same time.
You say it was a good time in your personal life to move to Glasgow, but was it a good time in terms of your career?
Yes, I was at a good age, I had just turned 22 and I had picked up loads of experience at Hibs. They were great to me at the time, they had given me first-team football from a very young age, playing week in-week out. I had served my apprenticeship, though, and I was ready to step up to the bigger stage.
How did it feel to know you were the first player to be valued at £1million in Scotland?
At the time you don’t really think about it. It’s something that’s there in the newspapers for the first few days but you’re conscious of getting on with your job as a football player and that is training everyday and preparing for the Saturday. It’s something other people like to talk about and it had nothing to do with me. It was between the clubs because someone else put a value on me, but of course it was nice to be valued so highly at the time. I never felt any extra pressure, though, having that price tag on my shoulders.
Did you keep newspaper cuttings from the day you signed?
Oh yes, I have kept all of them. I haven’t been through them for a little while but it’s happy days to look back on. The kids get a good laugh at them, looking at the funny hairstyles in the photos.
You come from a Celtic family. What was their reaction to you signing?
They were ecstatic. They always tried to keep it to themselves and never really said anything to me but I know my Dad was the proudest man on earth the day I signed for Celtic. I’m led to believe he was boasting in all the pubs!
Did you join the club with any aims or did you just decide to go with the flow?
I think the aim was always to win things as a team and do well as an individual and keep your place in the team. For me as a midfielder, or an attacker, it was to score goals and get into double figures. You want to stay fit and produce the goods so the bottom line is to always give your best.
You had obviously been in the stadium before as a fan, but how did it feeling running out of the tunnel as a player?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you walk out the tunnel and hear that roar, nothing beats it. My Dad was at every game, he was a mad Celtic supporter and was always in the silk seats – as they used to call them. It was always a special feeling looking up and catching his eye just before kick-off. It’s every boy’s dream to do that and I was one of the fortunate ones who had their dream come true.
How did it feel being the new Bhoy in the dressing room?
It was a very friendly dressing room and I never felt out of place. Peter Grant, Paul McStay, Anton Rogan, Chris Morris, Packie Bonner – they were all very friendly, and of course Tommy Craig who would end up coaching with me at Hibs. It was a very close-knit dressing room. There was a lot of banter, leg pulling and abuse – that’s all part of a dressing room, especially on the west coast, and that’s one thing I miss. It’s very hard to replicate the dressing room banter, it’s very unique. Ask any footballer what they miss after they have finished playing and the chances are he will say the dressing room banter. But on the pitch it was a challenge, as I said before, because Rangers were so rich and powerful at the time, but I knew that when I signed. Unfortunately I never won the trophies I hoped I would win but it wasn’t for the want of trying that’s for sure.
Did you find it easy to settle into Glasgow?
Yes, I think the people in Glasgow are very open, warm and straight to the point. My Father was from Glasgow and I have a lot of cousins, aunties and uncles from there too. I found them very welcoming from the day I signed right up until today. There’s nothing better than walking down the street today and having fans saying “Hi big man”, “Hi wee man” or “How you doing John” - my kids always laugh when I walk through the streets of Glasgow. But I like it, nobody talks behind your back, they just say it straight to your face and that’s nice. It’s very different to Edinburgh where they have a more cautious approach. The west coasters come up and ask you questions and say hello, it’s very warm and brings a family atmosphere to the place. It’s pretty unique.
Was it different living in Glasgow as a player though?
I was very fortunate when I played for Celtic, I had a great rapport with the fans and scored a few goals, but there was always that pressure when you lived in Glasgow and you weren’t winning anything. We were second to Rangers and it wasn’t the best place to be when you’re getting it in the neck all the time. As players we were always under pressure but you had to just get on with it and look after your own performance. You had to make sure you did your best because that’s the most you can do, and I did that in my six years at the club. I gave them every drop of energy I had.
And finally, did the experience of playing for Celtic live up to expectations?
Oh yes, most definitely. The atmosphere, the support, the away support we would take with us – it was challenging, exciting and there was never a dull moment under the microscope every minute of every day.
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