Boss Paul Doswell hails capture of returning Jamie Collins as 'one of his best signings' at Hawks this summer

Paul Doswell rates securing Jamie Collins' Hawks return as one of his top captures this summer.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 2:30 pm
Jamie Collins has returned to Westleigh Park. Picture: Kieron Louloudis
Jamie Collins has returned to Westleigh Park. Picture: Kieron Louloudis

The Hawks boss has been busy shaping a new-look squad ahead of the 2021-22 National League South season, recruiting nine players.

But Doswell believes the whole package his latest new addition will provide could prove paramount for the club.

The vastly experienced defender, 36, returns to Westleigh Park in a player-coach role after first joining the club 16 years ago.

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In his first stint with Hawks - after joining from Watford in 2005 - Collins amassed 169 appearances and also captained the club.

He was a key member of the squad that reached the fourth round of the FA Cup in 2007/08 - scoring in the third round replay victory over Swansea to set up a trip to Anfield.

Collins left Hawks to sign for Hampton & Richmond in the summer of 2008 and after spells with Newport, Aldershot Forest Green and Eastleigh linked up with Doswell at Sutton United in 2015, where he captained the club to the Conference South title in his first season.

Doswell reckons prizing the defender, who has not played competitively since November 2019 because of work commitments, away from his Sutton coaching role and persuading him to get back playing while also joining his Hawks management staff is a massive plus for the club.

The Hawks boss said: 'I’d put him up there as one of my best signings this summer. Not necessarily just as a player, he understands the fabric of this football club, he understands me and Bairdy (Ian) - he worked with me for six or seven years and has known Ian for 18 years.

‘I can’t emphasise enough what influence he’ll have around the whole club in a positive way.

'We need a conduit between the staff and the players and Jamie, being able to still play - he’s going to be a massive part of the dressing room - but he is coming in as player-coach as well so he is going to be part of the coaching set-up.

‘He’s going to be taking his UEFA A licence as well and for me this is a real long term project for Jamie as well.

‘I think that he’ll be here for a long time, his influence with Joe Oastler - he’s going to assist Joe in the academy - his influence amongst the younger kids in the academy can’t be underestimated either.

‘He’s going to be doing community work and going into schools for us. As an overall package it’s much more than him just signing as a centre-half, it’s actually far removed from just being that.'

Collins will step into his Hawks coaching role in place of departing former Leeds midfielder Simon Walton, who was player-coach last season.

But the ex-Sutton defender has made it clear his intentions remain on nailing down a place in Doswell's team next term.

And despite heavy competition in the centre-half position - alongside the likes of Oastler and Sam Magri - Doswell insists Collins will be doing everything in his power to put himself in contention for regular selection.

Doswell added: 'We’ve got four or five centre-halves here and Jamie knows he’ll have to be one of the best to get in the starting line up - there are no givens at this football club.

‘I know the character of him and I know what he’s like.

‘I know that the last two months since we’ve agreed that he wanted to come, I know that he’s been doing 5k runs every other day - he’s probably lost a stone and a half in those two months.'