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Football Remembers: Tony Collins' story

5 Feb 2020

War veteran shares his memories with academy players at his former club Watford

To mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Premier League has been getting players from their club academies to visit former footballers who are also veterans of the war.

In total, 11 sets of academy players visited the veterans and the short films of their visits will be used as an inspiration and a tribute from the Football Family to all those - players and supporters - who served their country during World War II.

The first film features four members of Watford Academy's Under-15s visiting Tony Collins.

Collins, now 93, was called up to serve in 1944 when he was 18 and was stationed in Italy after training.

Post-war he signed for Sheffield Wednesday and went on to play for many clubs, including two spells at Watford during the 1950s.

Groundbreaking manager

When Collins was named player-manager at Rochdale, he became the first black-heritage manager in the Football League.

He talked to the Watford Under-15s about his time in the war and shared with them his experience of the game in post-war England.

Watford were not aware of Collins until Club historians unearthed his story for the Football Remembers project.

"It's just been eye opening to find out about him, and a unique and unforgettable opportunity for our Academy players to meet and interview him," Nathan Marshall, Head of Education at Watford, said.

"His story shines a light on the incredible experience of World War II, and puts our football culture in perspective.

"Working on this makes you take stock of values and the community. It is a great privilege for us all to be involved."

'Incredible opportunity'

Martyn Heather, Head of Education at the Premier League, said the Football Remembers WWII project epitomised the League's commitment to developing "academy players as young men of quality and good character off the pitch as well as on it".

"The Football Remembers WWII project does exactly this," Heather added. "It's given academy players an incredible opportunity to connect with their elders and to hear first-hand from the 'Greatest generation'. They have made us proud."

The Premier League worked with Big Ideas on bringing the project to life and Virginia Crompton, its CEO, said that meeting the academy players had also meant much to the player-veterans.

"Sadly we have lost four of our eleven over the past few months since we started filming," she said.

"It is a precious experience and vital that we take the opportunity now, while we can, to make these connections. Anyone who is interested in getting involved can sign up at the link below."

See: Football Remembers WWII

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