Dave Hollins – ‘I’m glad my father didn’t see me let in 9 goals’

On August 23rd 1958, Albion captain Glen Wilson led the side out at Ayresome Park as Brighton made their Second Division debut:

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Unfortunately, the newly promoted side were pulverised 9-0 with future Albion manager Brian helping himself to five goals on the day. Here he is celebrating after netting his fifth:

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At the receiving end of these nine goals was Brighton keeper Dave Hollins, the older brother to John who eventually became a renowned midfield player with Chelsea, Arsenal, QPR and England. After being an understudy to the long-serving Eric Gill, the Bangor-born Dave Hollins was making his fifth appearance for the Albion. In Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly, he told his story:

Soccer has been getting a lot of knocks from critics in the past few years, but I know there is a lot of sentiment in the game, and plenty of sportsmen ready to give a youngster a helping hand.

When I joined Brighton from Merrow, a little club near Guildford, the first-team goalkeeping job was held by Eric Gill. He carried on to play a record number of 247 consecutive matches.

He always had a word of encouragement for me. And, when his long run was ended because of injury and I went into the League side. Eric was always ready with friendly advice or congratulation.

Why, he even invited me to stay at the Brighton hotel he had taken over. There, I had every comfort and our friendship grew even closer when I eventually took over his job in the Brighton goal.

He never resented it.

Eric Gill is just one of the many fine sportsmen I have met in professional football.

When Brighton played their first match in the Second Division I was in goal, The result is one no Brighton follower will forget. We were trounced 9–0 by Middlesbrough! I felt like hiding …. would have welcomed an underground tunnel to escape from Ayresome Park. And, when I got back to Sussex, 1 was half inclined to wear dark glasses! But Gill steadied me. “You have a long way to go in this game, Dave,” he said. “This sort of thing can happen to anyone, Fight back!”

Near the end of that Middlesbrough match I had heard a shout which didn’t amuse me at the time, but which seems funny now. A chap with powerful lungs yelled: “‘Don’t worry, Brighton. If Boro get ten they’ll declare!” At Brighton I was also lucky to have the backing of our manager, Mr. Billy Lane. He had faith in me, and that means a lot to a youngster i was only 17 when I joined the club.

I think my good run of luck in football started on the day 1 was born, My father. Bill Hollins, was a Wolves goalkeeper, and he always helped me with my game.

My early memories are of him showing me the way to keep goal. and then standing behind my net, offering advice and criticism.

Dad always emphasised my bad points and was a little sparing with his praise. Looking back, I can see just how right he was to be like that.

“Concentrate always concentrate.” he would say. “Keep your eye on the ball. always keep your eye on the ball.” I was glad dad wasn’t at that Middlesbrough match!

One of dad’s clubs was Bangor City and when he was with them I was born a Welshman.

A few months later the family moved on and I admit here that for many years it meant nothing to me to have been born in Wales.

I didn’t even appreciate that I was a Welshman until the day – the most exciting day of my life when I was picked to play for the Welsh Under-23 team against Scotland at Wrexham.

I don’t speak a word of Welsh and I was scared that my team-mates might start shouting instructions in that language.

But all was well, and I will never forget the way in which Jimmy Murphy, our team manager, inspired as in the dressing room in English! “You are playing for Wales now,” he said and his pre-match talk was terrific.

Now I understand why little Wales has so many great performances to her credit. And I learned something more of the Welsh fervour when we lined up in the pouring rain while the crowd sang “Land of my Fathers.” If I had not felt like a Welshman before then I do now and am proud of it.

Perhaps I am too young to give advice. but I feel that boys must be really keen on the game to succeed. And they require plenty of determination to fight against the bad times when they come.

Luck can play a big part, too. I have had my share even to catching a manager’s eye when I was only 12.
Mr. Lane was signing my big brother, Roy, for Brighton when I said: ‘What about me?'”

He replied: “Play hard and maybe I’ll be back for you as well.” The day came when he sent for me.

Yes, there’s plenty to be said in favour of the game. Take it from me – Soccer’s all right!

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