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Csaba Laszlo <-auth None auth-> Calum Murray
7 of 023 ----- L SPL H

Former Hibs manager John Collins insists only the cool succeed in heat of derby clash

JOHN Collins' preference for football played in a deliberate, thoughtful manner meant he was never likely to have anticipated derbies with the same feverish excitement as a fan. A veteran of Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh cross-city battles, he was glad to observe, after being appointed Hibs manager, that games with Hearts were not quite as frantic as he remembered when, as a teenager, he was first introduced to the concept of such high-intensity clashes.
But he was still quick to remind his players that those who let the heart rule the head would not necessarily flourish in the heated atmosphere surrounding them. Now settling in as manager of Royal Charleroi in Belgium, Collins can cast an eye back at Scottish football, and it is hard to detect any regret as he contemplates his new life in a more tranquil league.

"It's a long time since I've played in one and they were a lot more physical when I was a player," he said. "When I was manager I tried to get them to play football and to take away the derby mindset – forget about it being a derby and play it like any other football match which means getting the ball down and play football.

"You hear about battles and wars and fighting. I think we hear about that too much in Scottish football. I usually send my players out with football boots on their feet, not with guns to go into battle. That was the message I tried to give my players.

"Of course, you've got to win battles and the start of the game is usually high intensity, players throwing themselves into tackles, but I think it's less so nowadays. You're not allowed to tackle as much in football nowadays. There is no tackle from behind, no tackle from the side. When you played in the old days there were different rules and more players going up in the air early in the game. If you do that now you're off the pitch."

Collins sought to find a way of removing his players from the passion building across the city. Given that Saturday's final whistle at Tynecastle will mark the start of the countdown to another derby just eight days later, this might be tough for Mixu Paatelainen and Csaba Laszlo, the present incumbents. "I've always said that, as a player, a manager or a coach, you've got to detach yourself," he said. "The fans have a different mentality coming to the game. They're excited, they want to shout, but as a manager or a player you've got to be cool and calm. You go into it with your game plan and stick to it. If you get caught up in the occasion, more often than not that's when errors happen because you lose concentration.

"It's easier said than done of course, because there are a lot of young players on show. If you lose your cool it often costs you the game. A rash challenge, a stupid foul, getting caught up in a confrontation or out of position – those are things you try to avoid. You try to stay focused and detached from the derby atmosphere. It sounds strange but as a manager that's what you want from your players."

Collins has watched from afar as Paatelainen has inherited his task of batting down speculation about the future of Steven Fletcher. The Hibs striker is still at Easter Road, but for how much longer is anyone's guess, despite patchy form that has produced just six goals this term.

Jonatan Johansson's arrival, together with Derek Riordan's return from Celtic, has perhaps made the need to keep the player less urgent, but Paatelainen has consistently refused to imagine a scenario where he is sold during the current transfer window.

Collins was reluctant to discuss Fletcher's future when he was manager, but he now admits the player will have had his head turned by the experience of Scott Brown and Kevin Thomson, who joined Celtic and Rangers in big money moves. Yet Collins believes Fletcher has much room for improvement.

"He's a good football player with good movement and a good left foot," he said. "He's obviously got to work on his right foot, that goes without saying. I haven't seen him so much this season, so it's perhaps unfair to judge him.

"He's got the potential, and he's seen his pals move on so I'm sure he hopes it will be his turn next. I wouldn't say he was the best of the bunch (I had] but he has a lot of potential. He might be very quiet, but not when on the pitch. He's got a terrific appetite for working for the team."

Collins has become reacquainted with the worry of holding onto his players at lowly Charleroi. But his move to the east Belgian industrial city has, he says, revived him. His spell at Hibs came to an end in frustrating circumstances, with Collins stating he had taken the club as far as he could given the level of financial support available.

"I'm enjoying it," he said of Charleroi, who he watched win his first match in charge last month. "I've only been there a week and the season's reached its midwinter break, which is sensible."

He added: "Charleroi would be the equivalent of Hearts, Hibs, Aberdeen, Dundee United. They're a selling club. It's the same as in Scotland. You've got your top two or three and then you have the ones who'll sell."

Taken from the Scotsman

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