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City History

Sam Collins

Sam Collins was appointed Cityís Youth Team Manager in July 2018. Less than 2 months later he was appointed caretaker manager on the sacking of Martin Gray and assumed the role, full time in early October.

His previous managerial experience amounted to a few games as Hartlepoolís caretaker manager.

There was an immediate spring to the steps of his players, they appeared to be more relaxed, playing with more freedom and a smile on their faces as Sam sought to adopt a more expansive playing style.

Allied to a desire to promote youth and a willingness to be tactically fluid, his regime started off reasonably well. There was an acknowledgement that his players were still playing under the gloom of successive failed regimes.

Collins did well enough to earn a full time contract in October. The old failings were still present, a good win could be followed by a bad defeat.

October ended with a 3-0 defeat at Spennymoor and was followed by a bad home to defeat to Bradford PA after Joe Tait was needlessly sent off with City in the ascendency. A decent FA Cup performance at Swindon was followed by a sparkling midweek 0-0 against high flying Chester. City came down to earth at the weekend with a thumping defeat at Altrincham.

During the Altrincham post match interview, Collins seemed close to tears and at a loss to explain the abject performance after the 2 previous good displays. He indicated the players had a whole list of excuses. With hindsight, Iím never sure it is best to give the moaners the floor in such circumstances. Maybe Collins should have said their performance wasnít good enough and left it at that for the day before properly addressing the playing deficiencies on Monday when the immediate post match despair had begun to lift.

Again, Sam Collinsí Boston post match interview was frank and revealing. But Iím afraid he went down in my humble opinion. Sam is the manager and should be instilling discipline and dedication in the team. 7:30 beers and doritos didn't suggest discipline.

After a couple of bad defeats, it sounds like there were dressing room post mortems with the players putting forward their own reasons for Cityís travails. Maybe Sam should be laying down the law and not asking the players to come up with their own excuses.

Not sure as manager, I would sanction overseas trips for players with 2 games upcoming. Jon Parkin has freely admitted the beers were on him, so in his eyes he did no wrong, he broke no club rules. I canít disagree, but as our senior player, I would expect much more from him. Certainly he shouldnít be broadcasting such behaviour.

With the crop of youngsters being regularly bigged up, Parkin's behaviour, as our senior professional, is hardly setting them a good example. That said, on the pitch, Jon Parkin still adds something, his presence and guile easily overcoming any physical liabilities.

The festive season saw City lose 5-1 at Darlington on Boxing Day and win the New Yearís Day return game 4-0. A bad defeat at Curzon on the following weekend was the end. Dominant in the first half, City struggled with the final ball before completely switching off at half time. Collins was sacked that evening.

Collins regime sent out mixed messages. Keen to promote youth, he gave debuts to Fergus McAughtrie and Nathan Dyer but later terminated the contracts of McAughtrie, Harry Thompson and Flynn McNaughton. Whilst often speaking well to the press, at other times it sounded like he didnít have full control of the dressing room. Jon Parkin's Dutch trip raised eyebrows, although officially sanctioned, it was disappointing to see a senior professional with a pint glass in hand at 7:30 in the morning whilst the name of the Doritos eater hasnít been made public. On a couple of occasions, after bad defeat, Collinsí post match comments suggested he allowed the players to come up with their own excuses. A more experienced manager might have laid down the law and told the players what was wrong and what he expected of them.

Whilst tactically fluid, Collins was prone to fluctuating his team formation between 442 and 433 whilst making a high number of changes to his side from game to game, neither being conducive to fielding a settled side.

Collins made 7 signings, as over the years with many City managers, all showed their best form in their early City days before many seemed to lose their form the longer they were with City.

Collins came across as a "nice" man, maybe too nice when stronger authority was needed. Equally, he never seemed to fully connect with the fanbase. A little thing maybe, but he publicly stated in one interview that it wasn't his style to come and clap the supporters after a game, preferring to let the players take the plaudits. All well and good, but it put distance between manager and fans. Looking back, Gary Mills was one manager who was never afraid to acknowledge the fans, letting his players take the first round of applause, before taking his place in the limelight.

The Parkin and Doritos incidents could be construed as a manager not setting high enough standards, even a lack of discipline, equally, the petulant sending off of Joe Tait (v Bradford PA) and Alex Bray (at Darlington) didnít suggest disciplined players. Discipline (on and off the pitch) has to come from the top.

Meanwhile, the form of some players, notably Adriano Moke and Sean Newton dipped alarmingly. Rumours of a Collins / Newton bust up abounded but speaking on York Hospital Ball, Newton was adamant that he never refused to play for City.

Whilst discipline and authority has to come from the top, it has to be earned. Maybe as a youth coach, the boundaries and responsibilities are much more narrow than as a club manager where everyone, at the last count around 70 people, need to be onside.

By the end, Collinsí playing record was very similar to that of Martin Gary, albeit boosted by 4 cup wins against lower league opponents.

Footnote (1): When Jon Parkin did his York Hospital Ball podcast, they had to remove a record number of obscenities when he was discussing Sam Collins. Check out his and Michael Miles' podcasts.

Footnote (2): Speaking on York Hospital Ball (August 2022), Russ Penn recalled, ďSam Collins distanced himself from the older pros, (Penn) felt he was owed more respectĒ. Another estranged senior pro.