Fergie leads tributes to former Gulls player Tony Collins

Torquay United gold logo

Torquay United signed Tony Collins in the summer of 1955 - Credit: Torquay United

Sir Alex Ferguson has led the many tributes paid to former Torquay United left-winger Tony Collins, the first black manager in English football who died this week at the age of 94.

Collins, who was also the first black player to appear for most of his six clubs in the 1950s, was a little-known but hugely respected figure in the game.

Born in west London, his talent was spotted during World War Two service in Italy, and he had already played for York City, Watford and Norwich City before he signed for Torquay in the summer of 1955.

United had one of the best sides in their history, and they finished fifth and then second in the old Third Division South in 1957, missing promotion to the Second Division (Championship) only on goal average to Ipswich Town under future England manager Alf Ramsey.

Collins scored 18 goals in 92 games over those two seasons before moving on to Watford again, Crystal Palace and Rochdale, totalling more than 350 career appearances.

He broke new ground when he was appointed Rochdale manager (1960-67), leading them to the 1962 League Cup Final.

Collins then became a trusted scout for Bristol City, Leeds United, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Derby County and England under Don Revie.

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During his time at Old Trafford he played a key role in the £200,000 transfer of Gulls left-winger Lee Sharpe to the Reds in 1988.

Collins refused to admit that the prejudice he undoubtedly suffered, particularly as a player, had any effect on him or his career, insisting: “I never thought about it – never had the time.”

Sir Alex Ferguson Manager of Manchester United - Photo mandatory by-line:Graeme Truby/Pinnacle - Tel

Sir Alex Ferguson pictured when he was manager of Manchester United - Credit: Graeme Truby/Pinnacle

Ferguson, who knew him well, sent a heartfelt message of condolence, saying: “His family should be very proud of all he achieved.”

Ex-Leeds boss Howard Wilkinson, chairman of the League Managers’ Association, described him as ‘a true pioneer of the sport – humble, generous and with tremendous insight’.

Chris Hughton, now manager of Nottingham Forest pictured when he was manager of Brighton & Hove Albion during the Emirates...

Chris Hughton, now manager of Nottingham Forest - Credit: Dan Weir/PPAUK

Chris Hughton, manager of Nottingham Forest, added: “Tony has always been an inspiration to me as I continue alongside my colleagues to campaign for more diversity in management and coaching.

“He will be sorely missed.”