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John Collins an example to all

last updated Tuesday 08th August 2000, 7:29 AM
Footballers are supposed to be the most greedy, over-valued, self-centred and disloyal bunch of people around. Figures within the game frequently bemoan meaningless contracts, indiscipline on the pitch and misbehaviour off it.

Outside the sport, debate centres on the spiralling transfer market which has seen Luis Figo join Real Madrid for a world-record £37.5 million and Barcelona pay Rivaldo £4m a year to stop him leaving.

If football's spin doctors ever needed to highlight examples of players who put the game in a more favourable light, it is now and John Collins would be a first-class candidate.

The former Scotland midfielder, whose undoubted talent has convinced five clubs to pay transfer fees totalling £5.5m for his services, has just taken a pay cut to move from Premiership side Everton to First Division Fulham. It is the second time he has taken a drop in salary to embark on a new challenge.

He has played in World Cup campaigns and the Champions League and left an exceedingly well-paid position at Monaco in 1998 to move to Merseyside and test himself in English football. His most recent transfer, last month, showed a certain type of loyalty too.

"I would not have come to Fulham if Jean Tigana was not manager. We think along the same lines and our relationship was crucial," he said.

Collins, who began his career with Hibernian before moves to Celtic, and then Monaco, thought long and hard before committing himself.

"There was interest from numerous French clubs and I took about three weeks deciding whether to make the move," he said. "I had some reservations about leaving the top league for the first time in my career.

"But Jean told me his plans to build a small club into a big one which can challenge the best in the country. There cannot be a much better project than that. Sometimes in football, money is not everything. Job satisfaction is important."

Many footballers are not interested in long-term schemes, just money and Tigana has had difficulty persuading other players of Collins's stature to take the plunge. But the Craven Cottage pair worked together at Monaco and were pleased to be reunited and be able to help each other out.

Collins is the only French speaker among Fulham's British contingent and he loves the continental training techniques and thorough approach to football his manager takes.

He added: "I think me being here will help Jean, too. From a language point of view his English has improved dramatically but, if there are any grey areas when he is trying to explain to the players, I can step in.

"If people ask me what he meant, I can help. There has been a massive change in the way they do things here too. If any of the players have a moan I am here to say 'try it, it will benefit you like it has me and lots of others'."

Collins, 32, had enough respect for Tigana to override the negative reaction he got from some of his football friends about going to Fulham. He is moving his wife and three children to London and plans to buy a house here while he sees out his three-year contract. But he has not switched clubs just for the challenge and a chance to meet up with a mate.

Fitness fanatic Collins said: "I knew I would be enjoying every day here. Jean plays my kind of football and that had a huge bearing on my decision to come.

"I knew what I was coming to as well. I knew what the training would be like and the nature of the day-to-day business. It was a tough decision leaving Monaco for Everton, the biggest of my career.

"I wouldn't say I had regrets about joining Everton but it never went as well I had hoped.

"I was told certain things when I went there about them having money to spend and it was all lies. There was no money and they had to sell. They played with big strikers too and the ball missed out the midfield a lot of the time."

Collins's other more selfish motives for moving to Fulham are based on what he can learn from Tigana's coaching staff. Christian Damiano, his second in command, has worked with the best at France's national training camp and has offered to give the Scot tips. However, a move into management is not on the immediate agenda for the Scot.

He said: "I can talk with Jean about team tactics and what has gone wrong because of our relationship and that is good to know. But there are so many games in this league I will not have time to coach.

"I don't know the First Division that well but I should think winning the title is realistic. I have not come to hang about at this level, that is not part of my plan.

"The foundations are here and I think we have to believe promotion is possible in the first season. The pleasant surprise I have had is that I have found there are some good players here. I thought the standard would be poorer than it is.

"You should never look too far ahead but I will certainly be able to play for my three years and I believe Fulham are going to make a lot of progress. I have still got a bit of fire in my belly and I want to win things."

Source thisislondon by Leo Spall
Since 1998
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