Earlier this week, Celtic appointed former midfielder John Collins as assistant to new manager, Ronny Delia. Collins returns to Celtic Park 18 years after he left the club for AS Monaco.
He was the first Celtic player to leave under the Bosman ruling. During his time at the club, he was a key part of a Celtic midfield which included club legend, Paul McStay.
Collins’s had an influential role for Celtic and was a key ingredient to the attack. In addition to his good all round game, he had a tremendous ability to strike free kicks with his left foot.
In his six years at the club he was a stand out performer despite not being the best years for Celtic it has to be said. Yet he stayed and he performed so it was no surprise that when he left in 1996 with only one trophy to his name that Celtic fans accepted he wanted to move on, despite feeling the loss of a quality player.
There was no doubting the calibre of Collins and he could have played in most teams in Europe. That (and possibly the fact he was free) was enough to attract the attention of Monaco in the first place.
His playing career would eventually go from the shores of southern France to the banks of the Mersey with Everton and then alongside the Thames with Fulham. Beyond the domestic scene, Collins was an important player for the Scotland international team as well.
Although an ageing international squad, it was players like Collins who could breathe life into a starting eleven. Scoring in the opening game of the World Cup at France 1998 against Brazil from the penalty spot was one of his most significant goals in his international career.
That was is 11th goal for Scotland and in total he scored 12 goals in 58 appearances. He would eventually retire from international football after being pipped to a place at Euro 2000, losing out on aggregate to England in a two match play off.
However, it was those six years of dedication to Celtic that stand out for me. Like Paul McStay, Collins was an important part of Celtic during an unbearable trophy-less period.
It was players like Collins who kept the hearts and minds of the Celtic fans going at a time when all was not well at the club. Winning the Scottish Cup in 1995 would be the only honour he would pick up at Celtic having made 223 competitive appearances and scoring scoring 48 goals.
After departing in the summer of 1996, he would go on to win the league with Monaco in his first season in France. Ten years later, having moved into coaching, he picked up his third honour winning the League Cup as manager of former club, Hibernian.
It was a short spell there with the relationship lasting only fourteen months. He endured a player dispute, received an apology from the players in return and delivered Hibs first top flight trophy since 1991.
A year after resigning from Hibs over separate dispute with the board, he spent less than a season with Belgian club Charleroi. He also had s short spell as Director of football at Livingston.
For some, these brief interactions with clubs might ring alarm bells but many like myself have only never heard positive things about Collins’s knowledge of football. Like the appointment of Ronny Deila, the vibe regarding Collins’s return to Celtic is generally positive with the fans.
When working with the media, he has always expressed himself well as a football pundit. Alongside Gordon Strachan, he is one of the few Scot’s who actually comes across well and demonstrates a deeper understanding of the the game.
Of course, its making sure things happen on the field of play that counts when you are on the management team. In John Collins, I feel Ronny Delia has a good sidekick to enter the Scottish football arena with.
As we all know, the Celtic job comes with a certain degree of baggage. Collins know the club, the league, country and of course, the media (Gerry McNee take note).
Many fans are intrigued and indeed excited to see how this all plays out. Despite the World Cup keeping most of us preoccupied, its hard to ignore what’s going on at Celtic right now.
With just under four weeks until Celtic’s initial Second qualifying round of the Champions League, Deila and Collins have their work cut out for them already. Its a gruelling task they have ahead of them but one which this group of players have already been through together and a challenge that the management team are certain to embrace.
What remains to be seen is how Delia and Collins approach it. And will there be any moves and changes in the playing staff before then?
Well, one thing at a time I suppose. Until Monday’s draw then…