Decorated Scottish international winger Bobby Collins joined the Hull City coaching staff in July 1977, serving under first team boss John Kaye and alongside former Leeds United team-mate and City club captain Billy Bremner. When Kaye was dismissed on the first day of October 1977 following a humbling 0-2 defeat to struggling Mansfield Town the City board turned to Collins to fulfil caretaker manager duties – Bobby duly rewarded this decision by guiding the Tigers to a 2-0 floodlit victory over a promotion-chasing Tottenham Hotspur side featuring future England player and manager Glenn Hoddle and future Tigers boss Peter Taylor. With both Collins and Bremner applying for the manager’s role the board had a tricky decision to make, a fortnight later they chose Collins and Bremner resumed his playing role for the rest of a 1977/78 season that ended in relegation.
Collins initially steadied the ship at Boothferry Park and three wins in his first seven League games lifted the Tigers to 11th place. However City failed to win any of the next nine League games and by New Years Day the side had slumped to the bottom five. An early January victory over Crystal Palace broke the winless run but by early February, with football largely shut down by a cold snap and unrest emerging amongst the players as certain key figures in the squad were isolated, Collins was dismissed after just 18 weeks in charge.
Robert Young “Bobby” Collins was born in Govanhill, a south Glasgow suburb close to Hampden Park, Scotland’s national stadium. He was raised in nearby Polmadie, as a teenager he worked at the local coal mine and trained as a cobbler while playing junior football for Pollok, scoring goals aplenty from the inside forward positions despite his diminutive 5 foot 3 inch stature. This form attracted the attention of both English Division One side Everton and Scottish Division One side Glasgow Celtic – in August 1948 a Scottish FA panel decided that Everton had claimed his signature, only for Collins to successfully ask for his immediate release to allow him to sign for Celtic and remain in Glasgow. He made his Celtic debut a year later in an August 1949 League Cup tie match against Auld Firm rivals Glasgow Rangers and quickly won a regular first team start for the Parkhead side. Collins won the first of 31 international caps for Scotland in October 1950 against Wales and played three times for his country in the 1958 World Cup finals held in Sweden – he scored ten goals for his country and won his final three caps, after a six year absence, in 1965.
Celtic were not one of Scotland’s strongest sides in the immediate post-World War Two era but Collins’ goals helped to the side improve its results – the Bhoys lifted the Scottish FA Cup in April 1951 and in the 1953/54 season Celtic won the League and Cup double, although Collins missed the April 1954 cup final win against Aberdeen. Celtic won the Scottish League Cup in both the 1956/57 and 1957/58 seasons – in October 1956 Bobby started both the final and the subsequent replay against Partick Thistle and scored the opening goal in the decisive second match, a year later in October 1957 he started as Celtic swotted aside Rangers 7-1 in the final. By the end of the 1957/58 season Collins was in the prime of his career having scored 116 goals in 320 starts for Celtic.
In September 1958 Collins finally joined Everton, the English side that had pursued him ten years previously, with a £25,000 fee being paid for his services – Bobby had asked Celtic for a transfer and a string of English Division One clubs had chased his signature, with the Merseysiders winning the day. He slotted straight into the Toffees’ first eleven and contributed to an uplift in form that saw relegation strugglers turn into top six competitors within three seasons. Collins scored 48 goals in 147 starts for Everton until March 1962 when, amidst interest from Bill Shankly’s Liverpool, a £30,000 fee was sufficient to prise him away from Goodison Park and join ambitious Division Two side Leeds United managed by ex-Tiger Don Revie.
Collins was a pivotal piece in the jigsaw that Revie put together to transform Leeds United from second tier strugglers to Division One champions during the 1960s – he was repurposed by Revie as a midfield playmaker and missed only one League game in the 1963/64 season as Leeds won the Division Two title, then remained a first team regular in the 1964/65 season as Leeds finished Division One runners-up and lost to Liverpool in the FA Cup Final – Collins won the Footballer of the Year award at the end of the season and Revie later described Collins as the best signing he ever made for Leeds United. In October 1965 Bobby sustained a broken thigh bone in an Inter-City Fairs Cup tie against Italian side Torino – picture the aggressive type of tackle that would achieve such a fracture – which kept him out of the game for eight months. When he returned to fitness at the start of the 1966/67 season Revie had signed younger capable replacements and Collins was asked to play a support role. He left the Whites in February 1967 having scored 26 times in 168 matches.
In February 1967 Collins joined Division Two strugglers Bury, his arrival was not enough for the Shakers to avoid relegation at the end of the 1966/67 season but they were able to bounce straight back and finish in the promotion places at the end of the 1967/68 season with Collins contributing five goals. Now in his mid-30s, Collins was used less regularly in the 1968/69 season and left Bury in the 1969 close season having scored seven goals in 84 appearances. In August 1969 Collins joined Scottish League side Greenock Morton, returning to his Greater Glasgow roots and combining playing duties with scouting missions for Revie’s Leeds United side. In two seasons he scored three goals in 54 appearances for Morton and spent his summers playing in Australia for Victoria State League sides Ringwood City and Sydney Hakoah. Collins spent the 1972 season as player-coach at Ringwood, leaving the post after a disagreement with the club’s board.
In October 1972 Collins, well into his 41st year, joined Division Three side Oldham Athletic as player and youth team coach. He scored once in 9 appearances in the early months of the 1972/73 before ending his English League playing days in the 1973 close season. He remained at Oldham for a further year, playing a dozen times for League of Ireland side Shamrock Rovers during the 1973/74 season while coaching the Latics’ youth team. In June 1974 he was offered the assistant manager’s post at Oldham Athletic but he instead took the plunge and accepted an alternative offer to become first team manager at Division Three side Huddersfield Town. Collins’ first season in charge at Leeds Road was not a success as they finish bottom of Division Three, he had lifted to club to eighth place in Division Four when he resigned three days before Christmas Day 1975 – he led Huddersfield Town for 76 matches. In the early months of 1976 Bobby undertook scouting missions for former Leeds United team-mate Johnny Giles, now manager at West Bromwich Albion, then in July 1976 he rejoined Leeds United as youth team coach. A year later he joined the coaching staff at Hull City.
When Collins left the Tigers in February 1978 he was quickly snapped up by Blackpool, who employed him between March and June 1978 as assistant manager to caretaker boss Jimmy Meadows. After spending some time out of the game he set up a football coaching school in the north Leeds suburbs, until September 1980 when another former Leeds team-mate Norman Hunter lured him back into League football and appointed him youth team coach at Division Three side Barnsley. By January 1982 Bobby had taken over as reserve team manager as Hunter’s first team were promoted to Division Two, however a dip in form led to Hunter’s dismissal in February 1984 and Bobby took over as caretaker manager. He was appointed on a permanent basis in June 1984 but was sacked a year later after a mid-table Division Two finish and an FA Cup run that ended in defeat to Liverpool at the Quarter Final stage after eliminating top flight side Southampton in the Fifth Round. Collins managed Barnsley for 65 matches.
That ended Bobby’s coaching and managerial career, though for several years he sat on the panel that selected the Football League’s players of the month. He worked in the fashion industry and as a driver for the University of Leeds before retiring in the Leeds area. In 2002 he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, which claimed his life in January 2014.
Date/Place of Birth: 16 February 1931, Govanhill, Scotland
Date/Place of Death: 13 January 2014, Leeds, England; 82 years, 331 days old
Appointed by Hull City: 3 October 1977; 46 years, 229 days old
Left Hull City: 10 February 1978; 46 years, 359 days old
Tenure: 130 days
Huddersfield Town (1974-1975), Hull City (1977-1978), Barnsley (1984-1985)
Hull City Record
Playing Record: Played 22, Won 5, Drawn 7, Lost 10, Goals For 22, Goals Against 28