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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Q&A with John Hollins

[Typically summarized as "GRASSROOTS: Former Chelsea and Arsenal midfielder John Hollins is relishing the challenge of improving Crawley." - and leaving out the not-exactly insignificant, QPR role!]

Hollins at the helm
By Tony Incenzo
FA.COM Tuesday, 20 December 2005.

John Hollins made 939 appearances in midfield for Chelsea, Arsenal and Queens Park Rangers. He subsequently managed Chelsea, QPR (caretaker), Swansea and Rochdale.

Hollins was recently appointed as the new boss at Crawley Town, who have been struggling in the wrong half of the Nationwide Conference this season.

Good luck at Crawley, John. How are you settling in?
It is very exciting and enjoyable. I always relish my football. I just want to get the players working hard and improve them so that they get results.

Crawley are a good up-and-coming club aren't they?
Yes they are. And the Conference is a very difficult league. I always think it is the hardest division in England to win. Everybody can beat each other and the team at the top must be a very good side as they have had to work extremely hard to get there and stay there. So I like the challenge. I have watched a lot of football at this level over the years and I have appointed Alan Lewer as my assistant as he knows the Conference inside out. We are trying to gel our partnership together and, so far, there is an improvement in the team's performances. But we want even more points on the board.

How do you assess the standards in the Conference?
It is improving all the time. You just have to look at the teams that have gained promotion from the Conference and gone on. The likes of Wycombe, Doncaster and Carlisle. And even more good players are filtering down to this level. They can't get in at Premier League clubs and they are creeping down and down to the Conference So if you make the right signings, you can put a strong side together.

Crawley have a relatively new stadium and an expanding fanbase. What is the potential there? It is a good club. They had winning ways here to get promoted to the Conference and then went full-time quite quickly. They were massive steps forward for the club and I think they have been taking a while to adapt. It is a learning curve for Crawley Town. But I can teach them as I know how to run a football club. So I am sure we will get there.

What were the highlights of your playing career?
I have been a very lucky man. I joined Chelsea in 1961 and every day was like a birthday really. I got into the first team, won the FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup and won an England cap. Then I joined QPR and we nearly won the league. I played on at Arsenal and then finished when I was 38/39. So I was at relatively successful clubs throughout my career. I worked with some great managers - Dave Sexton, Tommy Docherty, Ted Drake, Bobby Robson, Alf Ramsay. They were fantastic people who just passed on information and got the best out of you. I'm hoping that I can take that approach and put it into the players we have at Crawley.

So what are you ambitions at Crawley?
There are a lot of points left to play for this season. You just have to think positively. If we won all our remaining fixtures, then we would lift the Conference championship trophy by a mile! But other people want to win it as well! So realistically we just need to keep improving.

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