The arrival of John Collins was seen by many as potentially the most
important new signing at Goodison Park for many years. Surely John
Collins represented real confirmation that a new dawn was approaching for
Everton? Sadly, the performances of the Scottish star have not match
these lofty expectations. The reason surfaced after Christmas 1998,
when it was revealed that Collins had been playing with a broken toe since
the World Cup.
John Collins marched into Walter Smith's Everton revolution claiming he was
a far better player since the last time he figured in the British game.
quit Celtic under the Bosman ruling after Euro 96, and blossomed into a cultured,
quality midfielder under Monaco's legendary coach Jean Tigana before emerging
as Scotland's most influential player in France 98.
As Everton's highest-ever paid player, on a reported £29,000 a week,
he said: "I have learned a lot since being in France, I have learned from
good coaches and from being exposed to a more technical game. I believe
I am a much better player than when I left Scotland two seasons ago."
Collins emphasised a key reason for him joining Everton: "Walter being
here was a major factor in my coming to Everton. He told me of the changes
he planned to make at the club and some of the players he intends bringing
in that are vitally important to the future success of the club.
"I talked to several clubs, but Walter came out to Monaco a couple of times
to see me and I liked what he had to say about what he was going to do and
the position he wanted me to play in. I thought long and hard about things,
but Walter being at Everton was a big pull."
"I have known him since I was 12, when he coached me one night a week at
Dundee United. We go back a long way. I have always been impressed
by him, he was manager at Rangers while I was at Celtic, and I believe he
can turn things round at Everton after a few poor years."
Collins has linked up with Olivier
Dacourt, who was also signed for £2.5M just 48 hours earlier from Strasburg.
Smith has made Collins and tough-tackling Dacourt as the heartbeat
of his new-look side, although perhaps the greatest midfield contribution
has come from an unexpected source: Don
Collins and Dacourt completed the main part of Smith's rebuilding programme,
following the Bosman signing of former Rangers full-back
Alex Cleland and the £3.8M capture of Italian
centre back Marco Materazzi from Perugia.
After a disappointing few months, Collins has shown a propensity for
being caught in possession time after time as he wants extra seconds
to explore options which are not there, because his teammates don't or can't
play the type of creative football he thrives upon. This raises serious
doubts about his ability to contribute meaningfully to the Everton revival,
assuming there is to be one.
Let's hope the reason for the midfielder's indifferent form really is that
broken toe... After an operation early in 1999, John Collins was
sidelined for the rests of the season. He did start full training again before
the end, but Walter Smith decided to save him for the new campaign,
even denying Craig Brown his services in Scotland's critical Euro 2000 qualifiers
in June 1999.
June 99: Collins: "My injury is totally healed and I've been
training for the last six weeks.
"I could have played in the last couple of league games of last season, and
was really pushing to do it, but the manager decided that it wasn't worth
it because we were already safe.
"I could have played for Scotland as well – Craig Brown offered me
the chance – but I didn't think it was right having not even played any
April 2000: His indifferent form continued until the Hutchison
watershed, which strangely seemed to release the skilled and intelligent
player we all knew was hiding in there. It had long been rumoured that
playing alongside Hutchison stuck in the classy Scot's craw. In some
excellent performances through the end of the 21999-2000 season, John
Collins revealed himself as the midfield powerhouse we thought Everton had
bought two years ago. He was rewarded with the captaincy, and
reaffirmed his desire to stay at Goodison.
That was until he was wooed by
his old friend Jean Tigana, who had taken over at Fulham. But that cheeky
chappie, Mohammed Al-Fayed, only offered a paltry £1M for the Scot, and the
other cannie Scot told him where to shove it... A tense fortnight of
haggling was finally resolved with an undisclosed fee of around £2.5M –
somewhat short of Everton's hold-out price of £3M.
And after leaving, he
told the London Evening Standard: "I wouldn't say I had regrets about
joining Everton but it never went as well I had hoped. I was told
certain things when I went there about them having money to spend and it was
all lies. There was no money and they had to sell. They played
with big strikers too and the ball missed out the midfield a lot of the
Oh well that's alrite then. As long as it wasn't
your fault, Johnny.