Bobby Collins Remembered
Horrendous Broken Thigh Injury Cut Short Career at Leeds

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Everyone at BOBBY was saddened to hear that former Scotland midfielder Bobby Collins had died at the age of 82.

Collins started his career with Celtic, where he broke into the team as a 17 year old and played 320 matches scoring 116 goals before Everton paid a club-record £23,500 fee for his services in 1958.

Four years later he moved to Leeds for a similar fee and helped the Yorkshire side win promotion to the top flight in 1964 under Don Revie.

Collins, who was only 5ft 3in tall, played 31 times for Scotland finding the net on 10 occasions.

In our Great Shot the Leeds and Morton players applaud Bobby Collins onto the pitch before a pre-season Friendly at Greenock Morton in 1971, in tribute to his outstanding service to Leeds United FC.

Collins was awarded ‘Footballer of the Year’ in 1965 for his role in a season that nearly saw Leeds win the double but miss out on both trophies by the slimmest of margins.

But his time at Leeds was cut short when in 1966 he suffered a terrible injury playing against Torino in a Fairs Cup tie.  In the 50th minute Torino defender Fabrizio Poletti ‘tackled’ United’s inspirational captain resulting in him suffering the almost unheard of injury of a broken thigh.

Billy Bremner was very distressed and described the incident thus; “I was so upset, I found myself weeping, and had the chance come my way, I would have ‘done’ the player who had so crippled my teammate.”

Bremner admitted to losing his head and saying to Poletti “I’ll kill you for this.” Poletti got the message as he stayed well out of reach for the rest of the match.

However, Bremner later observed, “The incident taught me something. I have never since that day gone on to the field with such feelings as I had then. That day, blinding anger and passion got the better of me and obscured my better judgement. If I had tangled with that Italian player in a fight for possession of the ball, I could not have been responsible for my actions. The foul had been so unnecessary and was so obviously vindictive. Bobby had been ten yards from the ball when he had been quite literally jumped on.”

Of that battle with Torino, Paul Madeley recalled: “None of us had ever experienced just how cynical foreign players could be and it was a really tough battle. One horrendous challenge broke Bobby’s thigh and ultimately finished his Leeds career. We were determined to progress and did incredibly well to come away with a draw, but the occasion was ruined by Bobby’s injury because he was so influential to the side.”

Although substitutes had been introduced into English Football for the first time that season, they were still not allowed in European competition and Leeds had to fight on bravely with ten men. They managed to hang on to their one goal lead from the first leg, keeping the Italians scoreless and the 0-0 draw was sufficient to see United through to the next round.

The horrendous injury sustained by Bobby Collins was ultimately the end of his time at United,  he did comeback, playing the last game of the season at Old Trafford, but only played seven more games in the following season. Manager Don Revie then gave Johnny Giles the chance to take on the Collins mantle.

No one could doubt that Collins played his part in the emergence of Leeds United as a force in English and European football, leading by example with a never-say-die attitude of grit and determination which was to be the hallmark of Leeds United teams for years to come.

After leaving Leeds Collins had a two year stint with Bury before departing for a short period back in his native Scotland with Greenock Morton, where he doubled up as a scout for Revie and recommended Joe Jordan. Jordan went on to become a respected striker with Leeds, Manchester United, Milan and Scotland.

After hanging up his boots for good Collins had brief managerial stints with Huddersfield, Hull and Barnsley.

 

by Karl Hofer.

 

 

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