Wolves are saddened to learn of the passing of Academy graduate Lee Collins at the age of 32.
The defender came up through the junior ranks at Molineux, captaining the under-18s before signing professional terms with Wolves. Despite not making a senior appearance for the club, Collins had a widely successful career in the Football League, making almost 400 EFL appearances.
Born in Telford, Collins began his first steps in football at Wolves Academy, and as a 16-year-old, he featured in the Wolves side which reached the semi-finals of the 2004/05 FA Youth Cup.
With the young Wolves team having beaten favourites Manchester City in the fifth round and Derby County in the quarter-final, Collins was brought into the side for the semi-final second leg against Southampton at Molineux, tasked with dealing with the threat of Theo Walcott.
The defender produced an almost perfect performance to deny hot prospect Walcott – months prior to his senior England call-up – from having an impact on the game. Although Collins and his teammates earned a 2-2 aggregate draw to take the game to a penalty shootout, Wolves were unable to secure their place in the final.
During the following seasons, Collins wore the captain’s armband for the under-18s and featured regularly for the reserves, until he was promoted into the senior squad by Mick McCarthy for the first time in January 2007, signing professional terms the following month.
Although he was a substitute for the Championship matches against Cardiff City, Plymouth Argyle, Preston North End and Stoke City, Collins was sent on loan to Hereford United to further his development at league level, and in the process, helping Hereford to League One promotion.
Following a temporary spell with Port Vale at the start of the 2008/09 season, Collins’ loan move was made permanent, ending his time as a Wolves player. He went on to make 163 appearances for the Valiants, scoring four times in four years.
Collins would spend time at several other clubs in subsequent years, including Shrewsbury Town, Northampton Town, Mansfield Town and Forest Green Rovers, before joining National League outfit Yeovil Town in the summer of 2019.
He made 31 appearances for the Glovers last season, before their campaign was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic with Yeovil in fourth place, before falling at the quarter-final stages of the play-offs.
Collins’ last appearance for Yeovil, where he was club captain, was in a 1-0 defeat at Stockport County on 6th February, before returning to the bench following an injury lay-off in the 3-1 win over Barnet last weekend.
Speaking to the Express and Star earlier this year, Collins said he looked back fondly on his time at Wolves, saying: “I still think my days with that youth team are among the best of my career.
“That camaraderie you build with certain people, and how you develop together as players and people is something which is unmatchable.”
The thoughts of everyone at Wolves are with Lee’s family and friends at this sad time.