Football Remembers: Tony Collins' story

9 Feb 2021

World War II veteran shared his memories with Academy players at his former club Watford

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As part of their education while growing up in football, players from club academies visited ex-footballers who served in the armed forces to learn about their lives and the sacrifices they made.

Tony Collins (Watford)

Collins, who died this week at the age of 94, 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 four Watford Under-15 players 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'

Premier League Education Adviser, Martyn Heather, 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".

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

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

"It is a precious experience and vital that we take the opportunity now, while we can, to make these connections," Crompton said.

Get In Touch

Football supporters can get involved in this Football Remembers activity by sharing a short video message for the nation’s World War II veterans on Twitter using the hashtag #FootballRemembers or by uploading their video message on the Big Ideas website.

Or you can show your support for an older person who may be isolated at the moment by taking part in our #GetInTouch activity.

Write and share a letter, or make a phone call to an older relative, friend or neighbour to make sure they are OK and to help them not feel isolated.

See: Football Remembers WWII

Also in this series

Part 1: Arthur House's story
Part 3: Josser Watling's story
Part 4: Gordon Astall's story
Part 5: Charles White's story
Part 6: Charlie Chase's story
Part 7: Bobby Brown's story
Part 8: Bill Blount's story
Part 9: Tommy Docherty's story
Part 10: Reg Harrison's story
Part 11: Dudley Kernick's story 

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