the first black manager in the English Football League

Rochdale's first major cup final was won by Anthony Collins 'Tony" Collins
It's 26/04/62 and there are 11,123 people at the Spotland stadium, Rochdale.

The League Cup final will be played between two teams. Fourth Division Rochdale will be competing in the League Cup final after an incredible run and their first chance to win silverware.

The Dale manager Anthony Norman Collins, also known as Tony, has become a legend in the game by becoming the first to reach the Final from the Fourth Division. But he is now on the verge of something more.

As the first black person to manage Rochdale, he leads the team.

You'll discover that he was the first black man to manage an English major final.

You'll find out that he is the first black person to manage the English Football League.

Collins rose to prominence not by accident, despite being born in London and serving in Italy during World War Two.

Although there are only seven black managers in the 92 Premier League or Football League clubs today, Collins did it nearly 60 years ago.

Collins was the first black Football League manager during the 1960-61 football seasons, a decade that saw support for Britain's National Front party gain momentum.

Collins' story, however, has been often marginalized outside of the clubs he managed or played for.

Many people are familiar with the names of first black players in Britain, heroes from the 1960s and 70s such as Viv Anderson and Clyde Best. But the story of the first black manager is less well-known.

Collins (right), played at Watford alongside Roy Brown (left), one of the first black English players.

Lou Collins was stigmatized for having a child in Kensington out of wedlock in 1926. She had a black mother and a white father.

It was at this place that Collins' early family life at 397 Portobello Road, their rented property, began to form him into a football pioneer. Sarita Collins, Collins' daughter, says, "He was exactly the same as his siblings and the rest of the family, as far they were concerned, except for an obvious difference."

Collins referred to his five "brothers" and sisters, even though they were his aunties or uncles.

"They protected him because he was older. He was strong and charismatic. Sarita said that he was named head boy at school and he led his entire life."

When Collins received his 1944 call-up letter, he enlisted as a Private 1473533535.

Collins (left, middle row) was stationed at Naples for three years and often organised football games with his comrades.

Camaraderie was a key feature of his unit. Referring to your origins or how you speak were often used against him. Collins quickly made sure that Collins didn't become a target because it was obvious that his skin tone would be a problem.

As a young man, Collins was a keen boxer. His trainer at the gym once suggested to Kit that Collins return to boxing because he had'money in his right hand'. Collins was outraged and argued with Kit.

Collins, who was 21 years old in 1947, was honorably discharged from his military service. He was 5ft 9in tall and very light of foot, so football was his first love.

Eric Taylor, Sheffield Wednesday's manager at the time, received a letter from a young private named Ibbotson. Collins was invited down to test it out after hearing his recommendation.

Collins played in 333 Football League games, scoring 47 goals and then retired in 1961.

After seeing Collins play for the Owls, one reporter wrote that Collins was 'one trial enough'. Collins signed up shortly thereafter as a professional footballer.

He wouldn't make Wednesday's first-team appearance. A player considered good enough by many observers, but not by the coaching staff, he would never be able to play for the team.

It wasn't an easy experience for Taylor and the other coaches were not as accommodating.

Collins' boots were too small for Collins back then, and players had only one pair of boots. He asked for a different size, but was denied. This caused him extreme pain and eventually lost his toenails.

We all know why Tony was treated that way, and looking back it's clear. Sarita says that he was the only one to have to endure this."

He would not say it was his skin colour, but he didn't want that to be an excuse."

Excruciating pain and a lack of opportunities led to a move from the Third Division North to York City.

Collins, who was born in York, joined many clubs, including Torquay, Torquay, Watford and Crystal Palace. He became the Eagles' first black player in 1957.

Collins was often linked to moves to the First Division. Many scouts came to see him.

In June 1959, he joined Rochdale as a final player. This was the club that gave birth to the managerial career of 'Football's master spy'.

Collins applied for the vacant position after Jack Marshall, his manager, moved to Blackburn. Collins was encouraged by colleagues.

In a time when this was not easy for black men in white British society, he had earned the respect of all his white teammates.

Sarita continued: "He was strong, but he was gentleman. He was a man you couldn't cross, it was almost like he was made from iron.

He didn't hold back, he said it as it was. That's how he managed to stay so long in this game. People want to make decisions. They want a clear action. That's what he provided."

Collins was appointed to the Rochdale full-time manager position on September 5, 1961.

He was able to lead the club to their only major final in history after just one year. However, Second Division Norwich won 4-0.

Only one club from the fourth tier has reached the League Cup Final, and that was Bradford City in 2013, when they lost 5-0 to Premier League Swansea.

Collins, a frustrated tactician, would draw inspiration from Brazil and Europe. He tried to form 4-2-4 and 3-3-2-1-3 formations but was denied funding, which led to the cup final.

Keith Alexander was often referred to as the Football League's first black manager when he took control at Lincoln in 1993. Collins' accomplishments were more widely recognized.

The same issues that plagued 2021 Rochdale in the 1960s also affected them, with board splits, financial problems, and divergent ideas about how the club should run.

It began to show on the pitch. Rochdale was just a few points away from being promoted to the Third Division in 1964-1965. However, the club was re-elected into the league in the two following seasons due to 21st place finishes.

In October 1967 Collins left Rochdale. Collins felt his hands were tied. There was very little recruitment. His tactical mind couldn't be used.

Rochdale was his home, his love and his life. Edith, his wife and their three children remained in Edenfield Road.

Collins won 132 games while in charge of Rochdale

Collins's ability to spot a player was what made Rochdale his last full-time managerial job.

It would allow Collins to continue living at home in Greater Manchester, and would also serve as a backroom position that would help Collins achieve the legacy he already has.

He was appointed assistant manager of Alan Dicks in Bristol City in 1968. Collins would also travel up and down the country for scouting missions. Collins was 180 miles away from the club, which was unusual according to the press.

He was fortunate to be in a good situation, and his reputation was growing. This led to him being regularly called up for interviews on television.

The scouting was successful - Dickie Rooks, Tom Ritchie, Gerry Gow and Tom Ritchie were all indicators of this. However, similar to Rochdale boardroom struggles were problematic.

Collins was promoted to the position of chief scout at Leeds United by Don Revie. He built a network for Don Revie called'spying'.

In his time as Leeds United manager, Don Revie won eight trophies

Sarita recalls, "He was just as a walking encyclopaedia."

"He would recall what happened in any of the games and I have spent hours listening to him on my phone, going through it."

The'spying' was done in Europe at the time was different. Clubs often had difficulties with language barriers or not knowing the names of players. Collins however understood the importance of these reports.

He wrote in his notes that Hungary was "one of my most fascinating trips."

It was to see our European second-round opponent Ujpest Dozsa. I was the club secretary and public relations officer and had to do it all by myself.

"In Europe, it is important to do the right thing the first time. This is especially true when you consider the amount of money that was spent on the trip as well as the potential prize.

Leeds reached the European Cup final in 1975 under Jimmy Armfield thanks to Collins' attention to details. They lost 2-0 against Bayern Munich after a series of controversial referee decisions.

Revie was the England manager. Collins' European and domestic pedigree led him to enlist his services at a national level to help compile match reports and player reports.

Tony Collins (top, right), alongside Sir Alex Ferguson (centre), and his Manchester United staff

Collins would then embark on second spells in Bristol City and Leeds, before joining Manchester United. He and Alex Ferguson were not able to see eye-to-eye.

A previous meeting between them saw Collins' Bristol City defeat Ferguson's St Mirren. Manchester United also missed out on John Barnes' signing.

There were several minor roles that followed, but the national spy, European and domestic, retired at age 80.

Howard Wilkinson (chairman of the League Managers Association) described Collins as "a true pioneer in the sport."

Sarita, her father who died in February at the age of 94, says that he was "just ahead of his times." He could do a player report in 90 minutes if you compare it with video analysis.

The inner workings and motivations of Football's Master Spy (the Football League's first black manager), were not known. This is how he did his best work - in shadows, running business.

Collins' journey saw him go from organizing friendlies against POWs during World War II to European Cup finals to become the closest Rochdale ever came to winning cup silverware.

He became inadvertently a trailblazer along the way.