Tue. Mar 2nd, 2021

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Tony Collins, English football’s first black manager and ex-Man Utd scout, dies

3 min read

Sir Alex Ferguson has led the tributes following the death of Tony Collins, the first black manager in English football.

Collins, who made history when he took charge of Rochdale aged 34 in September 1960, died peacefully at home this morning aged 94

During his seven years in the Spotland dugout the Dale reached the League Cup final – one of only two fourth-tier teams to do so.

Despite that success Collins never got another managerial job, although he always refused to countenance the possibility that was because of the colour of his skin.

He went into scouting, working under Leeds legend Don Revie before linking up with Ron Atkinson at Manchester United.

Among the players Collins brought to Old Trafford were Paul McGrath, spotted playing for St Patrick’s Athletic in Ireland, and Lee Sharpe from Torquay.

Ferguson said: “I was really saddened to hear the news about Tony and send my deepest condolences to all of his family.

“One of my earliest recollections of Tony was of the very impressive job he did as manager of Rochdale, beating Blackburn to reach the 1962 League Cup final. I then got to know Tony personally when I joined Manchester United and Tony was the chief scout.

“As well as being a valuable, knowledgeable and respected scout, he had such an engaging personality and I always enjoyed our conversations.”

In a statement Rochdale FC said: “Everyone at Rochdale Football Club is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former manager and player Tony Collins.

“Our thoughts are with Tony’s son, daughter and family at this sad time.”



Former Rochdale manager and Manchester United scout Tony Collins pictured at home last year

The EFL said: “The EFL is deeply saddened by the news of Tony Collins’ passing, at the age of 94.

“He holds a special place in the game, and will always be remembered.”

League Managers Association chairman, Howard Wilkinson, said: “Tony was a true pioneer of the sport. He was humble, hospitable, he had tremendous insight and was always generous with his time.

“His passion for football was so evident when you met him and he had some remarkable stories and memories to share.

“Above all, he should be remembered and revered for his achievements on and off the pitch. He was known throughout the game for his ability to recognise and nurture talent, a skill which enabled him to have a huge impact on the lives of others.”

Born in Kensington, London in 1926, Collins played for his local club Acton United as a schoolboy, before being called up for military service.

He started his professional career at Sheffield Wednesday. Moves to York City, Watford, Norwich City, Torquay United and Crystal Palace followed, before he signed for Rochdale in 1959.



Tony Collins (centre) with Jimmy Hill (left) and Nat Lofthouse

After just one season at Spotland, he was appointed as player/ manager of the club.

In an interview with the Manchester Evening News last year he recalled how he got the Rochdale job.

“The players wanted me,” he said.

“I was walking across the forecourt one day, Jack (former Rochdale manager Jack Marshall) was in and he shouted ‘Anthony, have you put in for it?’. I hadn’t.

“He said ‘why not?’. When most of these third or fourth division clubs needed a manager they went for an ex-England player to give them a bit of publicity.

“I had no plans to apply for it, I thought they’d go for someone else. Then I found out the players wanted me. I had to put a backdated application in to apply.”

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