Ronald Michael “Mike” Collins played for Redcar Boys Club in the 1947/48 season, and the team were featured in The Gazette for their Teesside Hospital Cup game against Middlesbrough Boys in the February snow. The following season he represented Redcar Works’ 14-16 team. He also featured for Redcar Albion’s junior side, but by 1951 he would make a much bigger step. At the age of 18, Collins followed in the footsteps of James Howcroft, Tim Williamson and the Harrison brothers when the young goalkeeper’s form brought him to national attention, catching the eye of Chelsea Football Club and signing as a professional.
Sadly, Collins’ Chelsea career never got going. He found himself as an understudy to Bill Robertson for the duration of his six-year stay at Stamford Bridge before moving on to Watford. He made only one competitive first team appearance for The Blues, poetically against Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park. “Here’s irony,” wrote the Daily Mirror ahead of the game. “Middlesbrough paid £25,000 for two new players yesterday, and Chelsea bring in a young goalkeeper they picked up for nothing on Middlesbrough’s doorstep!” In front of “lots of his boyhood friends,” Collins had a decent debut. He “played no small part in helping Chelsea to save a point” as the much-changed side came from behind to rescue a 3-3 draw.
Collins also played in a friendly against QPR two days later, but that was as far as his contributions in West London went. He spent most of his time in the reserves who competed in the Metropolitan and District League. A match report from 1956, a dominant 7-0 win over Horsham, exemplified their quality:
“Not once, literally not once, was Chelsea’s goalie Collins called upon to save a direct shot. All credit to Horsham in keeping the score down to seven, but they were like an inexperienced boxer, pinned against the ropes by a brutal opponent.”
Collins dropped down the Football League in 1957 to play for Watford as a part-timer to accommodate his career as a joiner. He eventually managed to wrestle the starting spot from Scotsman Johnny Curran and made 43 Football League appearances, as well as three FA Cup games. He left Watford in 1959 and ended his career at nearby Folkestone Town.