John Collins was one of the best players I’ve had the privilege to watch in a Celtic shirt. Growing up in the early 1990s and like everyone else in that era I had little to shout about, but guys like John and of course Paul McStay made it a little less strenuous supporting the Hoops.
John was signed of course by Billy McNeill from Hibs in the summer of 1990 for the pricey sum of £1 million. Indeed The clubs first million pound player. Not a lot in today’s market but back then it was a big fee especially for a club like Celtic.
John was a player that always caught the eye in Scottish football, with his splendid displays for Hibs earning him the 1988 SPFA Young Player of the Year award and international recognition. He had already been capped five times for the international side before his move to Glasgow.
Several teams in the UK and abroad were keen on getting his signature, nearer to home Graham Souness had also sounded him out about a move to Rangers.
John of course choose his boyhood club, Glasgow Celtic, and for less money than was on offer across the city. It would have been easier for him to sign for a club in a bigger league or god forbid took the mega-cash on offer from Ibrox. Thankfully he signed for the good guys, and quickly started to show his ability to the Celtic supporters, quickly becoming a fans favourite.
Although his time at Celtic wasn’t the best with our many well documented problems. John along with Paul McStay were two shining lights in a dark era. Two world class midfielders, and that isn’t an exaggeration. Both had class in abundance and could have played in any league in Europe.
It could be argued that John was the best out of the two during their time at Celtic. As terrific as Paul was I felt the captaincy gave him extra pressure and weight him down a bit, I might be wrong but it’s only my opinion. That isn’t doing Paul a disservice, as we know he is one of the clubs greatest ever players and rightly so, during the mid to late eighties he was the best midfielder in the country and one of the best in Europe. I just feel John was the better player in the 1990s.
John could pass equally as good with both feet and could find the net regularly. His free kicks are of course legendary. Who could forget his curler at to silence a packed Ibrox? He even repeated the feat a few months later. He was one of the most technically gifted Scottish footballers of his generation. His game and lifestyle were years ahead of his fellow pros.
John of course only had one medal to show for his time in the hoops, the 1995 Scottish Cup. He played for the right club but in the wrong era. His talents deserved more success. He finally made the move to the continent in 1996 taking advantage of the newly formed Bosman ruling and signed for French side Monaco, much to the annoyance of Fergus McCann.
The supporters couldn’t complain, we watched John for six years, six dire years for the club, but he gave his all for the club and left us with some wonderful memories making 276 appearances scoring 55 goals.
In France he got to win a title with Monaco and played with distinction in the Champions League. It was the right move. He would of course go on to play for both Everton and Fulham in the English top flight.
A great player and servant to the hoops and one I had the privilege to watch in the flesh. The saying right place wrong time was one hundred percent accurate when it came to John’s time at Celtic.
JustAnOrdinaryBhoy – follow on Twitter @ordinarybhoy
Like you I was lucky to watch both Collins and McStay in what must be one of our best midfield partnerships, just a pity about some of their teammates and the financial doping going on at the bigotdome. I remember the front of Not The View with a photo of Collins about to score the second of the free kicks you highlighted that he scored at the bigotdome, caption simply said, “same again john”, brilliant in its simplicity, some of Collins passing reminds me of DeBruin, John was that gifted, left foot of a wand
My recollection of JC in the later stages is him wanting to be our mid-field general…but being told to play wide…and it reflected in his performances…leading him to leave…But prior to that he was a class act.
Wasn’t so much the wrong time as the wrong board.