Where are they now? John Hollins
12th October 2016Where Are They Now?
Have you ever wondered what a former Swans player has been up to since hanging up his boots? In what is a new feature on swanseacity.net, we catch up with past players to give you the answers.
This week, former Swans boss John Hollins takes centre stage. After managing the club for a total of 170 competitive matches between 1998 and 2001, Hollins now hosts his own lounge at Chelsea on matchdays and is also a regular visitor to another of his former clubs, Arsenal.
"I loved every minute of my time at Swansea City," beams John Hollins, reflecting back on his time as the club's manager between July 1998 and September 2001.
Under the guidance of the former Chelsea, Queens Park Rangers and Arsenal player, the Swans won the old Division Three title in 1999-2000 despite the climate of uncertainty off the field during that time.
"We didn't have any money and when I took over, the club had a squad of 29 players who had finished fifth from bottom of the Football League," remembers Hollins. "We whittled that squad down to about 19 players, getting to the play-offs in my first season (1998-99) and winning the division the second (1999-2000). I had my work cut out... it was a proper management job.
"We won something like ten matches 1-0 during our title-winning season. That shows how resolute we were as a team. Once we scored, there was no way we were letting our opponents back into the match! I loved that season, one of my greatest in football both as a player and a manager."
As well as success in the league, Swansea City enjoyed some memorable cup runs under Hollins' management.
During the 1998-99 season, they saw off higher division opponents in the shape of Stoke City and Millwall in the FA Cup to set-up a third round tie with Premier League side West Ham United.
Despite being in the fourth tier of league football at the time, the Swans held the Hammers to a 1-1 draw at Upton Park on January 2, 1999. Jason Smith's second half goal looked set to put Hollins' men through to round four, only for Julian Dicks to equalise three minutes from time.
Cue a famous replay at the Vetch Field on January 13, 1999, in which Martin Thomas' 29th minute goal was enough for the Swans to see off their top-flight opponents.
"People often talk to me about the games with West Ham United in the FA Cup, and they were a big highlight for me of course," smiles Hollins. "We were playing against a West Ham side with the likes of (Rio) Ferdinand, (Frank) Lampard, Trevor Sinclair, John Hartson etc in the team... all the big boys.
"Aside from the obvious delight of causing an upset, it was fantastic that we did so playing really good football."
Hollins managed former club Chelsea and was caretaker boss at Queens Park Rangers prior to taking the top job at Swansea in 1998.
After departing the Vetch Field in 2001, he went on to manage Rochdale, Stockport County (caretaker) and Crawley Town. His most recent managerial position came with Weymouth back in 2008.
"As is often the case in football, money was a big issue down at Weymouth in that we didn't have any," reflects Hollins. "We couldn't get any new players to come in and it was more than hard work.
"You could never really improve anything as it was a fire-fighting exercise really. I managed to fulfil the brief of keeping the club up though, so I left with a sense of achievement."
Looking ahead to the future, Hollins doesn't harbour any ambition to get back into management. "I wouldn't be adverse to helping someone out at the right club though," adds the 70-year-old.
In the meanwhile, the Guildford-born former player and manager is happy in London, living close to his beloved Chelsea and working there on match days.
"I'm at Stamford Bridge for every home game," says Hollins, who played a total of 592 matches for Chelsea in all competitions between 1963-1957 and 1983-84, scoring 64 times.
"Every former Chelsea player that has made over 500 matches for the club gets a lounge at Stamford Bridge named after them, which is a great honour.
"My lounge holds around 250 people, so I host those visitors on a matchday and of course get to watch the match.
"I also go around the other lounges and hospitality boxes, talking about the upcoming game and reflecting back on my playing days.
"I'm also a member of the 100 Club at another of my former clubs Arsenal (for whom he played 172 matches and scored 13 goals between 1979 and 1983), so whenever Chelsea aren't playing at home on the same day, I go and watch the Gunners. It's very flattering to still be held in such regard by both clubs."