The pioneer black manager who became Don Revie’s ‘superspy’

The pioneer black manager who became Don Revie’s ‘superspy’

The Telegraph

Jim White

Tony Collins became England’s first black manager at Rochdale in 1960 Credit: Jon Super for The Telegraph

When he managed Rochdale back in the early Sixties, Tony Collins earned £1,500 a year. Fifty-four years on, as he sits reminiscing in a care home in Manchester, there are two managers in the very city where he is speaking who each earn £10 million a year. But he is not remotely resentful.

“I don’t begrudge them getting good money,” he says. “Because we were exploited. Oh dear, were we exploited. When I was a player, if Stan Matthews was in town, you could guarantee the gates would be locked. The crowds flocked to see him. Or Tom Finney, or Wilfy Mannion. What players they were. Artists, entertainers. But they never got the money.”

Things might have changed financially from his day, but one thing has not: ethnic minority managers remain a scandalous rarity. In that respect, Collins was a pioneer. The assumption has long been that Keith Alexander was the first black or mixed-race manager in the Football League when he took charge of Lincoln City in 1993…

…Collins’s story, told in a new book co-authored by his daughter Sarita, is an extraordinary one. He was born in Kensington during the general strike in 1926, his 17-year-old mother refusing to identify his father on his birth certificate. One thing was immediately obvious, however: his dad was black. Mixed-race children were an unusual sight in London in the 1920s. But his mother’s parents adopted him and brought him up in the then tough environs of the Portobello Road

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