EIGHTEEN years after he left Celtic as a player amid a degree of acrimony, John Collins has been reunited with the club he supported as a boy to become their new assistant manager.
The 46-year-old former Hibs manager, who had also been linked with the current vacancy at Easter Road, will be No 2 to new Celtic boss Ronny Deila. Collins will be formally presented to the media at the club’s Lennoxtown training centre tomorrow.
Celtic’s first £1 million signing when he joined them from Hibs in 1990, Collins made 273 appearances and scored 55 goals in six years at Parkhead.
Despite his time with Celtic coinciding with one of the least successful periods in their history, with the 1995 Scottish Cup the only honour he won, Collins was a popular and greatly appreciated midfielder among the supporters.
But his departure to Monaco in the summer of 1996 in one of the first high-profile free transfer moves of the Bosman era infuriated the club’s then owner and chief executive Fergus McCann who lost a protracted legal bid to secure a fee for the player.
Now Collins will renew his connection with Celtic in a key role under Deila as the Norwegian succeeds Neil Lennon in charge of the Scottish champions.
“It is a huge honour for me to return to Celtic, the club which has always been such a major part of my life,” said Collins.
“I am grateful to Ronny for giving me this wonderful opportunity and I look forward to working closely with him and the players to ensure that we can continue to bring the good times to Celtic.
“I know what a great club Celtic is and I know exactly what the club means to our fans. I will support the manager in every way and I am sure that together with our players, the backroom staff and the fans, we can all play our part in bringing success to the club.”
Collins, who guided Hibs to League Cup success in 2007 before resigning later that year amid disagreements with chairman Rod Petrie over his budget, is likely to be a forceful presence in Deila’s management set-up.
Most recently employed by the SFA as one of their national youth team coaches, he has clear ideas on the style of football he believes should be played and the manner in which players should train and prepare.
During his time at Hibs, it brought him into conflict with a number of first-team squad members – including current Celtic captain Scott Brown – who complained to Petrie about the manager’s methods.
Following his own discussions with Collins since his appointment almost two weeks ago, former Stromsgodset manager Deila says he has found a connection with Collins.
“I am delighted to appoint John to the position of assistant manager,” Deila told the official Celtic website.
“I have had a number of meetings with John, I can see what the club means to him and I can see the qualities that he will bring to Celtic. He is a first-class coach and has ideas on football which are very similar to mine so I am sure he will be a great addition to my team.
“He will start immediately and together we will now prepare for this first day of training next week. We have important matches in the near future so I am pleased that I have been able to secure him so quickly.
“Now we can get to work,” added Deila.
As well as starting pre-season training next week, Celtic will learn their initial opponents for Deila’s bid to lead them into the group stage of the Champions League.
The draw for the second qualifying round – the first of three ties they will need to negotiate – takes place at Uefa headquarters in Nyon on Monday.
Celtic will play the first leg of the tie on 15 or 16 July, with their home fixtures in the qualifiers taking place at Murrayfield this year as Celtic Park is unavailable due to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.