A true pioneer’: Tony Collins, Football League’s first black manager, dies at 94


Sir Alex Ferguson has led the tributes to Tony Collins, the first black manager in English league football, who has died aged 94.

Collins was appointed as Rochdale manager in 1960 and two years later took the club to the only major final in their history, in the League Cup. He went on to work as a scout for managers including Ferguson and Don Revie.

Collins had been a winger for teams including Rochdale, Watford and Crystal Palace, where he became the club’s first black player in 1957. He managed Rochdale, initially while playing, until 1967 but worked again as a manager only as caretaker in 1980 at Bristol City, where he had been chief scout and assistant.

Collins scouted for various clubs, notably for Revie at Leeds and for Ron Atkinson and Ferguson at Manchester United, where the players he brought in included Lee Sharpe. When Revie became England manager he employed Collins to provide dossiers on the opposition.

Ferguson said: “I was really saddened to hear the news about Tony and send my deepest condolences to all of his family.

“One of my earliest recollections of Tony was of the very impressive job he did as manager of Rochdale, beating Blackburn to reach the 1962 League Cup final. I then got to know Tony personally when I joined Manchester United and Tony was the chief scout. As well as being a valuable, knowledgeable and respected scout, he had such an engaging personality and I always enjoyed our conversations.”

Ferguson was speaking in his capacity as a board member of the League Managers Association, whose chairman, Howard Wilkinson, said: “Tony was a true pioneer of the sport. He was humble, hospitable, he had tremendous insight and was always generous with his time. His passion for football was so evident when you met him and he had some remarkable stories and memories to share.

“Above all, he should be remembered and revered for his achievements on and off the pitch. He was known throughout the game for his ability to recognise and nurture talent, a skill which enabled him to have a huge impact on the lives of others.”

The Nottingham Forest manager, Chris Hughton, said: “Tony has always been an inspiration to me as I continue alongside my colleagues to campaign to see more diversity in management and coaching across the game. He will be very sorely missed.”