Chelsea v Barnsley - Brad Collins grateful for his Stamford Bridge education

Barnsley goalkeeper Brad Collins’s late father Mark will be firmly in his thoughts on his return to Stamford Bridge tonight.

Tykes keeper Brad Collins. Picture Tony Johnson

Countless footballers remain indebted to the support and sacrifices of devoted parents and family members during their formative years and Collins firmly brackets himself among that number.

His dad used to drive him up the M3 from the family home in Southampton to London, with Collins joining Chelsea’s Under-12s set-up in 2010 and signing a scholarship in 2013.

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A few years later, Collins’s father passed away and the help of Chelsea during that heart-rending time in his life is something he will never forget.

Reds keeper Brad Collins in action. Picture: Steve Ellis

Collins said: “My dad passed away during my time there and off the pitch, they were very good to me and my family and I thank them a lot for that.

“It was a very strange feeling and I have never felt anything like that in my life before. Adi Viveash (ex Chelsea coach) and Neil Bath (head of youth development) helped my family a lot and helped with the funeral and things like that.

“From the age of 11 when I went there, my dad used to take me every day and dad grew a good bond with the coaches and they knew him very well.

“It is not just on the pitch there, but off the pitch as well. They have such a variety of coaching staff who help in every aspect of your game. It is really good coming through at a place like that.”

Covid-19 restrictions sadly mean that none of Collins’s friends and family will be present this evening, but there are likely to be a number of familiar faces.

The keeper may have never played at first-team level alongside a number of contemporaries, but his time at SW6 is one that he still treasures.

He was part of the Under-18 side who beat Manchester City to win the FA Youth Cup in 2015, with the likes of Fikayo Tomori, Tammy Abraham, Izzy Brown – now at Sheffield Wednesday – Dominic Solanke and Jay Dasilva in that Blues line-up.

The year before, he was on the bench alongside current Reds team-mate Isaac Christie-Davies as the Londoners won the same competition, with that side also including Andreas Christensen, Kasey Palmer, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ola Aina.

Collins continued: “Obviously, I was really delighted with the draw and I have a lot of friends there still and hopefully we can do down there and get the win.

“It would have been very nice for them (family and friends) to attend, but I think there are more important things in the world going on right now.

“So they will have to stay at home and be safe.

“I still know Ruben, Andreas, Tammy, Fikayo, Mason Mount and Reece James and people who have left now, such as Kasey Palmer.

“A lot of the players were trying to help you and it is hard to name one. I still speak to quite a few of them and Mason quite a bit, to be fair and Reece James. It will be good to see them.

“The assistant-manager now (Jody Morris) was my youth-team coach and it will be good to see him as well.”

Collins’s last Carabao Cup tie against a member of football’s establishment was certainly a memorable one – albeit not in the way that he would have wanted.

The 23-year-old was part of the Burton side who reached the last four in 2018-19, only to be eviscerated by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who thrashed the Brewers 9-0 in a remorseless performance in the first leg.

It was a sobering night for Nigel Clough’s side – who had knocked out Burnley, Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough en route to the semi-finals – but there was class from Guardiola in its immediate aftermath.

“Pep just wished us well and said how much of a good achievement it was to get to the semi-finals with all the big clubs in the country,” Collins recalled.

“For a club like Burton to get there was a massive achievement for them.

“We came up against probably the best team in the world at the time and they had no mercy on us.

“It was a tough night, but I learned a lot from it.

“You just had to look at the team sheet for the first game to show the respect that they gave us. It was an incredible game. We actually started off very well, but they scored a few too many...”

Naturally, Collins will be hoping for a more favourable occasion this evening.

But one thing is for sure, his late father would be very proud.

Last six games: Chelsea LWLLWL; Barnsley WWWLWL.

Referee: D Bond (Lancashire).

Last time: Chelsea 2 Barnsley 0, January 31, 1998; Premier League.

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Thank you

James Mitchinson