Former Chelsea player and manager John Hollins has died aged 76, the club has announced.
Hollins made almost 600 appearances for the west London side as a player between 1963 and 1975 before a three-year stint as boss from 1985.
Chelsea board member Daniel Finkelstein said: “He was a hero to the fans of this club, and very much that to me.
“He was at the heart of one of Chelsea’s greatest teams and, as well as contributing to its trophy success, he expressed its spirit.”
After spells at Queens Park Rangers and Arsenal, Hollins returned to Stamford Bridge in 1983 for the final year of his playing career and helped the club win promotion back to the First Division after a five-year absence, replacing John Neal as boss a year later.
The team mounted a credible title challenge during in 1985-86 season, his first as a manager, and topped the table in February before falling away after a poor finish and ending up sixth.
He went on to take a coaching role at QPR, briefly taking over as caretaker manager in 1997, before stints in the Football League at Swansea, Rochdale and Stockport. His last managerial role was with Weymouth in 2008.
His appearance total of 592 in all competitions placed him fifth in Chelsea’s all-time.
He was appointed an MBE for services to football in 1982.
Speaking on behalf of the family, his son Chris Hollins said: “John was always so modest about the role he played in Chelsea’s history.
“He was only 15 when he signed for the club and went on to win trophies in those incredible sides of the ’60s and ’70s.
“He had so many stories, but he always told us he just loved running out at the Bridge and wearing that famous blue shirt. We will miss him as a husband, a father and grandfather and will always be proud of what he achieved in the game.”
Paying tribute on Wednesday, the Football Association said: “We are saddened to hear that John Hollins MBE, who played for the #ThreeLions in 1967, has passed away aged 76. All of our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Hollins made a single appearance for England against Spain in a friendly at Wembley.
Arsenal, for whom he played 173 times across four years and won the club’s player of the year award in 1981-82, said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of John Hollins. Our Player of the Year in 1981/82, John was also a European Cup Winners’ Cup finalist in 1980 and was awarded an MBE in 1982. John scored 13 times in 173 games with us. Rest in peace.”
The Professional Footballers’ Association said: “The PFA is deeply saddened by the news that former Chelsea, QPR and Arsenal midfielder John Hollins MBE has passed away, aged 76. The thoughts of everyone at the players’ union are with John’s family and friends.”
Former Chelsea captain John Terry tweeted: “My love and condolences are with the Hollins family,” whilst ex-Wales striker John Hartson wrote: “RIP John Hollins. Had the pleasure of meeting John on a few occasions mainly when he was manager of Swansea City in the late 90’s smashing guy. Thoughts are with the Hollins family.”[mc4wp_form id="442993"]