PEOPLE came from far and wide to say a moving last farewell to Leeds United and Scotland legend Bobby Collins.
Famous names such as Norman Hunter, Eddie Gray and Johnny Giles all gathered at the funeral of one of football’s finest.
Hundreds of mourners packed into Leeds Minster as they paid their respects to the man who helped propel United to the top of the English game in the 1960s under manager Don Revie.
But yesterday’s service made clear he was more than simply a football hero – he was also a proud husband, father and grandfather as well as a steadfast friend.
Former Leeds player and coach Jimmy Lumsden struggled to keep his emotions in check as he read a poem entitled Wee Barra, the nickname the diminutive Collins acquired during his time with Celtic.
It included the lines: A gem, a diamond? No simply a man/A friend, a colleague, a mate/Whatever he meant to you this word will suffice/On the pitch or off, he was great.”
Earlier, the City of Leeds Pipe Band played a piece of music called Highland Cathedral on the steps of the church as Collins’s coffin – bedecked with white, yellow and blue flowers – was carried inside.
Wreaths had been sent from Celtic and also Everton, another of his old clubs. One bore a message from the Merseyside team’s chairman, Bill Kenwright, saying: “Thank you Bobby for the wonderful memories.”
Hymns during the service included I Vow to Thee, My Country and Amazing Grace. A poem entitled Farewell Our Friend was read by Collins’s granddaughter Stephanie
while an address was given by Canon Tony Bundock, Rector of Leeds.
He told the mourners: “Bobby carried on playing just for the fun of the game well into his 60s. Sixty-six years of age, I think, when he finally called it a day on playing football. In fact, I have a friend who is a former teacher at Cardinal Heenan school here in Leeds who played against Bobby when he was in his 50s and he tells me that, even then, Bobby still had that ability to run the game.”
Canon Bundock also touched on what he described as “the darkness of ill-health” that blighted Collins’ final years.
A personal tribute came from Joe Jordan, who signed for Leeds in 1970 after being spotted by Collins playing for Scottish side Greenock Morton. Jordan’s heartfelt words were followed by a round of applause inside the church.
Talking afterwards, he said: “It was a privilege to be asked (to speak) by the family. I don’t think you can say enough about the man himself, what he did for me and what he did for Leeds United. We were many years apart in age but we became friends. Bobby was a special person.”
Other ex-United stars at the funeral included Peter Lorimer, Terry Yorath, Paul Reaney and Mick Bates. Lorimer said: “Don Revie was the manager but Bobby Collins was the man on the field. He taught the younger players, the Eddie Grays, the Paul Reaneys, myself, and gave us the professionalism we needed to become the team we were.”
Turning to his memories of Collins the man, Lorimer said: “He was great. It’s 40 years since he was at Leeds but you can see here today he has never been forgotten.”
The Elland Road heroes were joined by Patricia, Countess of Harewood, widow of the late Lord Harewood, a long-serving United president. Leeds manager Brian McDermott was there as was John Lukic, a member of United’s 1991-92 league title winning side and Celtic player Bertie Auld.
Asked what his father would have made of the service, Collins’s son Robert, said: “I think he would have been very proud of the tributes and accolades from his colleagues. His life was Leeds United in his later years. He was all about Leeds and the city of Leeds.”