John Hollins 1946 – 2023
Neil Smith reflects on his own personal memories of a Chelsea icon.
The statistics covering John's career in football reflect the man himself. Just awesome.
592 appearances for Chelsea alone weighing in with 64 goals and, no doubt, even more assists. Debuting in September 1963 he would wear the number 4 shirt more than any other player in the Club's history before departing for Queens Park Rangers in May 1975.
When Chelsea finally lifted the FA Cup at Old Trafford in April 1970 John had appeared in all 54 competitive fixtures that season. In the following campaign, which culminated in the Blues winning the European Cup Winners' Cup when beating Real Madrid in Athens, he missed only two league games and two European ties which cruelly included the final replay itself.
John was awarded "Player of the Year" in both those successful cup campaigns.
Amazingly he was then an ever present in all league games for the next three seasons! Notably he netted 18 goals in the 1971/72 season, his best return, including scoring in 6 consecutive games.
My elder brother was taken to Stamford Bridge for the first time on the 6th November 1965 aged 12. He returned home and related to me that not only had he witnessed Chelsea beat Leeds 1-0 but how the goal scorer, Johnny Hollins, had covered every blade of grass on the pitch.
The following April I was able to make my first visit too, when as a 9 year old I watched the Blues defeat West Ham 6-2 on Easter Saturday. Thankfully I came from a large Chelsea supporting family and our visits became habitual.
My teenage cousin, Linda, announced that she was writing to the Club requesting that she could form the John Hollins Fan Club of which she would be the Secretary. A reply was received very quickly notifying that such a club already existed and an application form was enclosed! She was very disappointed and I am unsure whether she enrolled.
Around that time my father would obtain two tickets for every England International at Wembley and take my brother and me to alternate games. We used to bicker about who was going depending on the quality of the opposition. When John made his one and only full international appearance versus Spain just after the 1967 FA Cup Final, Dad relented and agreed that we could both go bearing in mind the importance of the occasion and our sad demeanour after that Cup defeat.
We all have fond memories of watching "Olly" in those days, too many to relate here. Amongst his many attributes he was able to launch a long throw and when this was ever imminent in a game the crowd would chant "Olly, Olly, Olly" in anticipation. Indeed, I remember a patron of the West Stand who would initiate the chant and then continue with the yodelling much to everyone's amusement. Back in the school playground on a Monday morning I argued with a Spurs supporting classmate that Olly's throws were longer than those made by Dave Mackay. Although I had no real proof.
On my first visit to Upton Park in August 1970 I remember that Chelsea were getting the run around by West Ham who led 2-0 going into the interval. On the stroke of half time with Peter Bonetti beaten John launched himself just below the crossbar and miraculously prevented a third goal with his head. As the whistle blew he puffed out his cheeks, mopped his brow and smiled at those of us assembled behind the goal. In the second half Chelsea turned things around and Keith Weller netted his first goals for the club in an excellent 2-2 draw. I never forgot that although Alan Hudson and Peter Osgood provided the assists it was Olly who saved the day.
Another time at Derby on the opening game of the season John tore after local hero Alan Hinton and brought him down. I was spectating on the "Popular Side" where there was no segregation like these days. A Derby fan launched a torrent of abuse at our man calling him a "Dirty Chelsea B#st#rd". A middle aged lady sporting Chelsea blue turned on him and agreed that we did have such players but Olly wasn't one of them!
For those who like their trivia John wore shirt numbers 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, & 10 for Chelsea and 11 for England. I'm sure he would have gladly played in goal or at Centre Forward if asked and gone about it with the beaming smile that was always on his face.
A full player profile can be found here at Stamford-Bridge.com
A selection of John Hollins goals courtesy of Chelsea Lookback
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