Leeds United Stories, Vol. 1

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bobby collins: “football may be a game, but a player has to work at it”

bobby collins: “football may be a game, but a player has to work at it”


Leeds United announced last night that Bobby Collins, former captain of the club and a man who shares much of the credit with Don Revie for transforming Leeds United, has died aged 82.

Collins was signed by Revie from Everton when Bobby was 31, and when moving to Yorkshire meant dropping down a division. The £25,000 transfer has been called ‘the most crucially important transfer deal in Leeds United’s history,’ as the tiny Scot became captain and inspiration to a young side striving for an identity.

One of those young players, Eddie Gray, said that, "In my opinion Bobby Collins was probably the most influential player in the history of Leeds United. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him and played with him"; Billy Bremner once said of him, "I learned many great lessons from Bobby Collins, not the least being able to take the knocks as well as hand them out, and always play the game as a man."

The most severe knock was a broken thigh bone suffered against Torino in October 1965, an injury that would have finished the careers of most 35 year olds – especially given the medical technology of the mid-sixties – but Collins returned to play seven more games the next season, before moving on to play for eight more years at Bury, Morton, in Australia and for Oldham.

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Collins set a high watermark of character and spirit for Revie’s Leeds side. A feature from the Topical Times Football Book of 1961/62, from just before Bobby left Everton, included some comments from Collins that, after recent performances, would be worth consideration by the current squad.

After noting his tiny frame but formidable muscle structure (‘Bobby is 5ft. 3 1/4 in. tall. He is a little fussy about that quarter-inch … Alex Dowdells, Celtic and Scotland trainer before he joined Leicester City, says that if he were to be blindfolded and given a team (including Bobby Collins) to massage, he could tell which was Bobby by the feel of the leg muscles’) the feature asks how Bobby responds on the rare occasions when his performance doesn’t come up to scratch:

"Some players," he says, "may be able to forget about a poor game. Not me. Football is my business, so why shouldn’t I think about it? A poor show sticks in my mind. My training and practice the following week is designed to put things right. I can hardly wait, in fact, for the next game to start."

His advice to youngsters hoping to make a name in football is in keeping with his own way of living. 

"Football may be a game," says Bobby, "but a player has to work at it. When I was a youngster just starting, I played as often as I possible and I trained hard. I have reaped the benefit since, and can’t offer any better advice."

Bobby Collins played 167 games for Leeds, scoring 25 goals, winning the Second Division Championship in 1964 and Footballer of the Year in 1965. He was the player that legends of the Revie era regard, themselves, as a legend; Leeds United would not have become the same club without him. 

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