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Book Review: Tony Collins: Football Master Spy

Thursday 2nd February 2017
Tony Collins is a well-respected former player, manager, assistant coach, and chief scout. In this book - Tony Collins: Football Master Spy, which was released six months ago, it provides a detailed account of his career in the game he holds so dearly.

Title : Tony Collins: Football Master Spy

Author : Quentin Cope and Sarita Collins

Publisher : The Book Guild Ltd

Publication Date : 21/06/2016

Price : £9.98, available online at Amazon
There is an image on the front cover of a young Tony Collins in action during his playing days. The picture is in black and white, which offers the reader a trip down memory lane; a theme that persists throughout the book. The title: Football Master Spy, is a bold assertion, so is it true? Well, there's only one way to find out and that's to begin reading.

The statement: ‘The English Football League's first black manager' elicits curiosity and the need for further discovery. In addition to the inviting front cover, blurbs are also found on the back. They include contributions from former Leeds United duo Norman Hunter and Gordon McQueen; alongside the words of Ron Atkinson, ex-Manchester United manager, who had this to say about the man he once worked with at Old Trafford.

Tony was known throughout the game as a master of tactical positioning combined with shrewd assessments of players.

Supporters of certain teams, particularly Rochdale, Manchester United, and Leeds United, should read this book as Collins played a prominent role for each of those clubs. It's also a must-read for people interested in the analytical side of the game: a detailed explanation is given from the point of view of a man who worked on tight budgets as a manager, and then later in his role as a scout where he was aiming to spot the very best talent.

Collins was a key figure in the game's tactical development, he was ahead of the times and during his long career, the former England scout was regarded among his contemporaries as being at the top of his profession. However, the book doesn't just retell the story of a revolutionary football character, it also delves into the life of a family man - one who faced a struggle to find the correct balance between work and home, and one who had to come to terms with the loss of his beloved wife, Edith.

Football Master Spy is published by The Book Guild Ltd, a reputable company with over 30 years experience. It is co-authored by Quentin Cope, an established writer with a number of works previously published, and Sarita Collins, a keen football fan as well as a business entrepreneur and daughter of the man at the centre of this book. Tony Collins also had a considerable input, with comments that vividly express his footballing memories.
In his playing days, which began with Acton United before moving on to Sheffield Wednesday, Collins was a talented left winger. He went on to play for York City, Watford (twice), Norwich City, Torquay United, and Crystal Palace before finally hanging up his boots at Rochdale. In all, the attacker scored 48 times during 337 appearances. He then entered into the world of management.

While in charge of Rochdale, Collins took the fourth division side to the League Cup final in 1962 - a feat that has only ever occurred twice. After seven years at the helm, he left the Lancashire club to embark on a career as an assistant manager with Bristol City. He then became the chief scout at Leeds, followed by roles in the same profession at Man United and the England national team. In 2003, having returned to Elland Road, Collins retired from football.

Consisting of 3 parts, and 15 chapters all with relevant subtitles: an extraordinary life story has been retold in this book. Beginning with Collins' childhood and continuing in chronological order, on to time spent in the army, various jobs within football, life at home with family, and ending with reports on particular players. There are also two sections containing pictures, which help draw the reader in to better understand the inspirational man's history.

There are several reasons why this book is an interesting read, with one being the honest opinions Collins gives regarding some familiar faces - managers who were once involved in the upper echelons of the game. The list includes Liverpool great Bill Shankly; Don Revie, a manager who Collins shared a close relationship; and the legendary Alex Ferguson, who he wasn't so impressed with. Player profiles, locked away and stored, are also included. A young Chris Waddle, Gary Lineker, and Trevor Francis are just some of the names closely analysed by the ‘Master Spy'.

I recommend reading ‘Football Master Spy' as it offers a unique insight into the history of English football. The protagonist of this book, now a man 90 years of age, has a wealth of knowledge that is as relevant today as during any other time. Although many people will be unfamiliar with Tony Collins and the success he experienced in football, his achievements and long-lasting memories deserve to be cherished.

Below is the book's video trailer. 
Danny Glendenning

Passions include reading, sport, and nights out with friends. A football fanatic whose writing career began in May 2016. Now 30 years old, lives in South Yorkshire - local team is Doncaster Rovers, although heart lies with Arsenal. Contributing editor for It's Round And It's White. Current claim to fame is an interview with Ron Atkinson. Always looking for work, either editing or writing. Contact via email: Dannysg1988@outlook.com. Or Twitter: @DannySG1988.



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