Collins says football can change very quickly for first year professionals.
James Collins says experience tells him that signing a first professional contract doesn’t necessary mean you will carve out a successful career in the game. Collins, who is now first-team coach broke into the Crewe Alexandra first team in 1997 and went on to make 29 appearances for the first-team under Dario Gradi – but following his release in 2001, the local lad had to carve out a career in the non-league scene with the likes of Northwich Victoria.
Collins turned his talent to coaching and is now one of only a select few in the country, who possess the Football Association’s Elite Coaching Award.
Collins says that the hard work now starts for those youngsters signing their first professional contracts with the club. Crewe signed five young pros in the summer with Youth team players Andre Brown, Toby Mullarkey, Joe Kearns, Joe Howell and Liam O’Neill all penning professional contracts this summer.
“The first year professionals will know that the hard work for them really starts now. We will speak to them to let them know what is expected of them, ‘says James.
“Football is littered with players who sign professionally and then fade away. Back in the day when I played I remember a young striker Paul Edwards, who played in the same youth teams as Dean Ashton. He scored goals for fun all the way through the Academy, but never quite made that step up and he went out of the game.
“Gareth Liddle was the captain of the Youth Team and had all the attributes to be a top professional, but he never made it. Pete Smith went to Lilleshall with England and played for the first-team here under Dario but he later dropped into non-league with Telford.
James added: “Our young players have done superbly well to make it through and all the hard work and sacrifices they have had to make to achieve that but first team football and Under-21 football is different from Under-18s.”