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RIP John Hollins, a Guildford Footballing Legend

Published on: 15 Jun, 2023
Updated on: 20 Jun, 2023

By David Reading

Former Chelsea footballer and manager John Hollins, a Guildford footballing legend, has died at the age of 76.

John Hollins.

Hollins, an inspiration for  countless Guildford football fans, spent his early life living in Foxburrows Avenue, Westborough, and was a popular pupil at Park Barn School.

After his career got going, he made almost 600 appearances as a player for Chelsea, scoring 64 times during his two spells at Stamford Bridge between 1963 and 1984.

He also played for Arsenal and Queens Park Rangers.

He played once for England, in 1967, an end of season friendly against Spain, which England won 2-0.

Hollins, an MBE, was appointed Chelsea manager in 1985, a position he held for three years.

The Guildford Past & Present Facebook page has been inundated with memories and tributes to Hollins:

They include: “Sad day for Guildford. The best footballer Park Barn School and Guildford ever produced.”

“I went to school with John and was a near neighbour. When he played for Chelsea against Spurs our street was decked out in blue, we lost. It’s his fault I became a Chelsea fan and season ticket holder RIP John.”

“Good player for Chelsea and Arsenal, he had been unwell for a long time. His brother Dave played in goal for Wales and now lives in Brighton.”

“So sorry to hear of John’s passing. I saw him play for the sea cadets against Portsmouth cadets up Stoke Park where he scored all nine goals. RIP John.”

“I was in his class and worked at the salon with his sister.”

Chelsea board member Daniel Finkelstein is reported as paying this tribute: “He was a hero to the fans of this club, and very much that to me. He was at the heart of one of Chelsea’s greatest teams and, as well as contributing to its trophy success, he expressed its spirit.

“He lifted up the team with his play and lit up the Bridge with his smile. He gave a life of service to this club, as a player, as a manager and as a matchday ambassador. He was greatly loved and will be much missed.”

Hollins, a product of Chelsea’s youth system, made his first-team debut at the age of 17.

During his first period at Chelsea, he lifted the FA Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and League Cup – leaving in 1975 and returning eight years later to help them earn promotion from the second tier.

Hollins wouldn’t have remembered me, but I have my own John Hollins story that I have cherished over the years.

We both played for the St Francis Cubs’ soccer team, and for some mysterious reason I was put in goal.

We must have been eight or nine years old at the time. Hollins was centre forward, if I recall correctly, and the whole team had a privileged preview of the star he was later to become.

The young Hollins would regularly be up there in attack, scoring nine, 10 or 11 goals – maybe more – while the opposing teams never got a look-in. Eventually (and this is a true story) I brought a book with me and sat in the goalmouth reading, while Hollins wreaked havoc up the other end.

Another legendary Hollins story tells how one of his teachers at Park Barn asked various members of the class what they wanted to be when they grew up. Turning to the teenaged Hollins, he asked the same question. “Professional footballer, Sir,” Hollins replied.

The story goes that the teacher mercilessly ridiculed Hollins, believing his dream to be ludicrously unrealistic. I like to think that in years to come that teacher later regretted mocking a man who became a national legend.

And finally, as mentioned above, Hollins’ older brother, Dave, also played professional football. He was a goalkeeper and played for Brighton & Hove Albion, Newcastle United, Mansfield Town, Nottingham Forest, Aldershot, and Romford. He was born in Bangor, North Wales, and therefore was capped for Wales playing 11 games between 1962-66.

There is a story, and a kind of pub quiz question, in that John and Dave once played against each other for their respective countries. This does not appear to have been either full or senior internationals. Does anyone know the correct details?

You can leave comments in the reply box below.

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Responses to RIP John Hollins, a Guildford Footballing Legend

  1. Brian Holt Reply

    June 15, 2023 at 4:41 pm

    They never played against each other in a Wales v England match. Dave played for Wales from 1962 to 1966 and John, being younger, played for England in one match, against Spain in 1967.

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