It was with great sadness that the club learned of the death of our former midfielder, John Hollins, aged 76.
John joined us from Queens Park Rangers a day before his 33rd birthday on July 15, 1979. Scepticism over a player who had already enjoyed over a decade at Chelsea and four years with QPR soon drifted away as the work rate, leadership and passing ability of the diminutive Hollins in central midfield quickly won over our supporters.
He came on as a substitute in the European Cup Winners Cup final at the end of his first season and was virtually ever-present the following campaign, weighing in with five goals including the winner away to Brighton & Hove Albion.
Midway through the 1981/82 campaign, John dropped into defence following an injury crisis at right-back and adapted seamlessly, excelling in the position for the remainder of the campaign, illustrating a fine ability to read the game and willingness to always put the team first. Indeed, the consistency of his performances rightly earned him our Player of the Year award from supporters. He also received an MBE for Services to Football in 1982.
John continued at right-back in 1982/83, a season when he also took on the club captaincy, holding together a young team during a difficult period at the club. He made the last of his 132 appearances for us on April 20 at Norwich City's Carrow Road before heading back to Stamford Bridge in a player-coach role that summer.
John’s last season also provided an interesting moment of history, when he arranged for his son Chris – once offered schoolboy terms at Highbury but later a highly respected journalist – to lead out the team as our first-ever matchday mascot, against Manchester United on May 2, 1983.
A regular at Highbury and subsequently Emirates Stadium later in life, it was always a joy to welcome John who was universally loved for his zest for the game and warmth of character.
He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
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