Neill Collins reveals coaching philosophy and role of Mick McCarthy as he lands Barnsley FC role

New Barnsley head coach Neill Collins says he was a ‘coach who played’ during a 17-year playing career that set him up for life as a manager.
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Collins, 39, the former Sheffield United defender, signed a two-year deal to become Barnsley’s head coach on Thursday.

He transitioned into coaching when his playing career ended in 2018 when representing Tampa Bay Rowdies, a USL team he then managed for five years, taking them to the play-off title game twice.

Neill Collins when captaining Sheffield United, is the new manager of Barnsley and talks about his philosophy and influences. (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage)Neill Collins when captaining Sheffield United, is the new manager of Barnsley and talks about his philosophy and influences. (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage)
Neill Collins when captaining Sheffield United, is the new manager of Barnsley and talks about his philosophy and influences. (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage)
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Speaking to the Scottish Football Coaching Podcast in April 2020, Collins said: "I was brought up in Scotland in a football environment, I was exposed to the coaching education at 16, 17, people like Peter Grant, John Robertson, even then I was watching how they would put sessions together for younger players.

"I can quite honestly say I was a coach that played, rather than a player that became a coach. It’s always been on my mind and throughout my career I always kept a close eye on the coaches I worked with.

"Even coming late into the professional full-time game, 20 at Sunderland, I was considering it then if I didn't make it as a player.

"My dream was to play but I would have been happy to go into coaching.”

Influential: Former Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy (Picture: PA)Influential: Former Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy (Picture: PA)
Influential: Former Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy (Picture: PA)
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Growing up in the youth systems of Queen’s Park and then onto Dumbarton unsure of whether he would make it as a professional, Collins also continued his education as a student at Strathclyde University.

He would go on to play 21 times for Leeds United 216 games for Sheffield United in a six-year spell in the height of his career, but if it wasn’t for a former Barnsley player taking a chance on him as he entered his 20s, none of it would have been possible.

"Mick McCarthy was the person that signed me at Sunderland and his impact was huge,” Collins told the podcast. “Everyone has such respect for him, he’s so open and honest.

"I’d been on trial at Rangers, Kilmarnock, Charlton. Everyone looked at me and thought ‘why have these teams not taken him in?’, whereas Mick brought me in, watched me with his own eyes, own judgment, wasn’t bothered why others hadn’t taken me and he was able to keep that going throughout his career. He just trusted his own judgment and that was a big thing for me, this manager who had been at the World Cup saw something in me, a player at Dumbarton, that he could improve and could help his team. That was a big learning curve for me.”

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Another influence came during his time at Sheffield United between 2011 and 2016.

"Danny Wilson managed over 1,000 games and what impressed me was how calm he was in adversity,” said Collins.

"I had a really tough time with my son being in hospital for three weeks during a tough point of the season, but he just stayed so calm, and for me that gave me so much confidence that he can stay calm like that, inspire you, it was a lesson to me.”

He also captained the Blades and took lessons from a young man alongside him in the centre of defence.

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“I always wanted to be myself as a leader, but at times you have to adapt,” said Collins. “I’ve played with some great captains who led by the way they played and the way they acted.

"Harry Maguire, now at Manchester United, was a different type of character, not a shouter, not a screamer, led by example, by the way he plays."

All that led to him transitioning from playing into management, first at Tampa Bay Rowdies, and now at Barnsley.

“I love dealing with people, I love trying to get the best out of people,” revealed Collins. “You’ve got videos to watch, teams to scout – that’s why I took the job (with Tampa).

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"Putting your ideas in, seeing which ones work, which ones don’t.

"I was ready to make the decisions, that’s why I stopped playing. I wanted to use all my years of playing experience and start putting that into seeing if it worked. That was an exciting part of the job.”