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Real career break for Collins

Opportunity has come knocking for John Collins at Celtic and I am sure he will appreciate just how fortunate he is to be returning to Parkhead as new manager Ronny Deila's assistant.

John Collins shows off his famously well-honed physique at Euro 96 Photograph: Archive
John Collins shows off his famously well-honed physique at Euro 96 Photograph: Archive

Much has been made in media circles this week of past revolts Collins has been at the centre of - the well-documented claims by Hibernian players that he bared his midriff to show his own muscled torso as an example to them have been dredged up again - but I prefer to focus on positive revolutions.

The alliance of Collins and Deila is a partnership I am extremely excited about in this new era for the club.

After 14 months in charge at Easter Road, Collins' coaching career took a less high-profile turn. He was director of football at Livingston for a year and more recently has been working as a youth coach for the Scottish Football Association.

In this sense, a club like Celtic giving him a chance is huge for him. It is a highly significant step for John. If he still had ambitions to be top manager, he had to get a post of stature and he has certainly got that now.

The No 2 role can be interesting. In many cases, managers look for someone who can get close to the players. They will be vocal, upbeat and funny; a joker in the pack. John is not like that, he is a quiet, unassuming man.

But Celtic, as a squad, don't really need someone like that. They are all good professionals and the club's football operations are a tight, well-run ship that might require just the odd tweak here and there.

Let's be honest, they are all but certain to win next season's SPFL Premiership title. It would have to go spectacularly wrong for that to change under Deila and Collins.

John will bring a wealth of experience, insight and vision to the role. He possesses a huge amount of professionalism but, again, that is quality that is already embedded at Celtic.

In his early days as a coach John was very demanding, and not just on how football should be played, but on the scientific side of the game. Better diet and physical conditioning were things he thought he had to bring to Hibs, but he won't have to do that at Celtic and that will be good for him.

My experiences of working with him during my time in the Scotland set-up were nothing but positive. He was a leader, but not in the sense he ordered you about. He led by example.

I remember losing a bit of weight after Alex Miller introduced a more disciplined approach at Aberdeen, and his regime was modelled on what John had experienced at Monaco.

I'm the first to admit I didn't get on that well with Alex, but you always take something positive from every manager and that routine certainly helped me.

We went in for a run at 8am, then did a session of weights before having breakfast. You would do ball work from around 11am then go home, perhaps have a sleep, and come back in the middle of the afternoon to do some running.

That was all John's type of programme in many ways and it served me well.

He is a consummate professional and I think the players at Celtic will respect that. He also played there for six years and always had a touch of class about him on the pitch, whether turning out for his club or for Scotland. He should be grateful he has been given this opportunity, but I am sure he knows that and will seize it.

It is hard to think it is 16 years since John Collins scored against Brazil in Paris in the opening match of the 1998 World Cup, Scotland's last appearance in a major finals.

This year's tournament is now well under way in Brazil and I have been captivated by some of the matches. I stated in the build-up that I wouldn't stray too far from the South American teams when looking for a likely winner and I still think the hosts will do it.

It has been a wonderful spectacle so far. Often there is a lot of cautious play in the group games, but there has been a refreshing openness to many of the matches this time. And we've even been given a laugh by our Scotland fan among the Uruguay supporters against England.

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