Leslie “Les” Collinson was born in Hull and grew up during the war years. He played for local junior sides as a teenager in the early 1950s before joining Hull City on amateur terms in August 1953. Les served the Reserves for three seasons until his chance for first team action came in November 1956 in an FA Cup tie against Gateshead – the absence of Andy Davidson required a reshuffle of the half back line and Les was given his debut at right half. Collinson impressed City manager Bob Brocklebank sufficiently to be handed his first professional contract in December 1956 and retained the right half shirt for the rest of the season, with Davidson moving to left half. Collinson was a complete half back, combining tackling and aerial ability with a knack for building attacks from deep. He also had a powerful shot that was deployed throughout his career to good effect, his debut goal coming in a March 1957 3-4 defeat at Rochdale and his second coming a fortnight later in a narrow 3-2 win over Chesterfield.
Collinson remained City’s first choice right half throughout the 1957/58 season, missing only eight matches all season and even trying his hand at centre forward in a November 1957 3-3 draw against Bradford Park Avenue in which he scored the Tigers’ third goal. Collinson started the 1958/59 season out of the first team but soon replaced his fellow half back Jack Bennion, however by December 1958 Jock Davidson was again preferred at right back and Les dropped into the reserves as City ended the season winning promotion to the Second Division – a career feature that would be repeated eight years later.
The 1959/60 season saw Collinson demonstrate his versatility as as he spent the first four months covering the half back and inside forward roles when team-mates were absent. By December 1959 City had sunk to the bottom of the Division Two table and Collinson was reintroduced to his preferred right half role, returning to first team action for a rare victory – 3-1 at Sunderland – and keeping his place for the rest of the season. Returning to the Third Division for the 1960/61 season, manager Brocklebank began a process of introducing younger talent to the City first team – notably Chris Chilton – but the old guard of Andy Davidson, Paul Feasey, Brian Bulless and now Les Collinson remained in situ with Les remaining in the first team for the whole season, save for a month’s absence in December.
When Cliff Britton took over as City manager in the summer of 1961 he too viewed Collinson as a key part of his first team squad and for the next two seasons, as Britton started building a squad capable of challenging for promotion back to the Second Division, Les was City’ regular right half missing only five matches in the 1961/62 season and three games in the following term, which extended to the end of May 1963 thanks to heavy winter snowfall. After starting the first two fixtures of the 1963/64 season Collinson was replaced at right half by Scunthorpe signing Len Sharpe and only returned briefly for ten starts during December and January that included two FA Cup ties against First Division Everton. Despite this long absence from regular first team action, Les bounced back in the 1964/65 season and missed only six games as the squad building work of manager Britton saw City narrowly miss out on promotion.
Collinson remained with the Tigers for two further seasons, the 1965/66 Third Division title winning season and the following season in the Second Division. However he was now regarded as a reserve half back that would occasionally deputise for others, notably Welshman Alan Jarvis who took over the right half role in the 1965/66 season. Now in his early 30s, Collinson was sold to Division Four side York City for £3,000 in February 1967, his 332 senior appearances for the Tigers placing in the top 20 all-time appearance makers for the club.
Collinson slotted straight into the right half position at York and his 18 starts in the remainder of the 1996/67 season were supplemented by a further 17 starts the following season – he scored 2 goals in these 35 appearances. He played his last senior fixture for York in February 1968 against Chesterfield, dropping out of the Football League that summer when he signed for Goole Town. After two years at Goole he joined local side Hull Brunswick in 1970 and served them until he approached his 40th birthday. By this time Collinson had retrained and worked as a mathematics teacher. When he stopped teaching in the late 1990s he became the verger at St Andrew’s Church in Kirkella and enjoyed his retirement at his home in Willerby.
Date/Place of Birth: 2 December 1935, Hull
Hull City First Game: 17 November 1956, Gateshead H (FA Cup First Round), 20 years, 351 days old
Hull City Final Game: 7 January 1967, Preston North End H (Division Two), 31 years, 36 days old
Hull City (1953-1967), York City (1967-1968), Goole Town (1968-1970), Hull Brunswick (1970-1975)
Hull City Record
Career: 332 apps, 16 goalsLes Collinson