Ricky Holmes pays emotional tribute to 'all-round great guy' Lee Collins
Ricky Holmes has paid an emotional and glowing tribute to his former Cobblers team-mate Lee Collins, who died this week aged just 32.
Holmes played with Collins in the same Town team in the 2014/15 season, and says the news of the Yeovil Town captain's death has left him completely 'shell-shocked' and 'disbelief'.
Yeovil announced the passing of Collins on Thursday, and the news sparked an outpouring of grief from the football family, from players who had played with an against him, to supporters of the clubs he had played for, and supporters of those he didn't play for as well.
It is clear there is total respect and admiration for Collins, who as well as spending more two seasons with the Cobblers, also played for Hereford United, Port Vale, Barnsley, Shrewsbury Town, Mansfield Town, Forest Green Rovers and Yeovil, where he was club captain.
And Holmes told BBC Radio Northampton's Cobblers Show on Thursday night that football has lost 'an all-round great guy' who will be 'truly missed'.
"We are shell-shocked, every one of us, because you don't expect to read that," said Holmes, who now plays for Southend United.
"It was Joel Byrom who texted me, and he said 'have you heard about Collo?', and I said 'oh, what's he done now?' Then he told me and I was in disbelief.
"Condolences to his family, he was such a great guy and he will be truly missed by every one of his team-mates.
"Looking at my Twitter feed, I can't believe how many players he has played with, and even players who didn't play with him, people like Nicky Adams who has come out and said what a great guy he was, and he had met him on a night out or played against him.
"He was just a genuine bloke and a bit of an unsung hero.
"He just went about his business day in, day out. He didn't really grab the headlines, because goalscorers get that, but I am sure he knew he was valued in the team.
"Everyone would go to him, (at Northampton) he and Rico (Marc Richards) were the go-to players as vice-captain and captain, and we saw them both as leaders.
"I am sure he knew how valuable he was to team-mates and managers alike, because he made sure people did things right day in, day out."
And he added: "I think Lee was just the guy next door, that genuine bloke that you would meet down the pub and have a pint with, and just talk about anything.
"He leaves a young family behind, and 32 is no age."
A look at the many, many tributes on Twitter, there is a recurring theme of current and former professional players stating how welcoming Collins was when they had joined clubs where the defender was playing.
Holmes enjoyed a similar experience when he signed for the Cobblers from Portsmouth in January, 2015.
"When I came back into the changing room and was reading my Twitter, I think Lee was the same at every club," said Holmes.
"He was the first one that would go over to new players and make sure they were settled in.
"He lived over the Upton area, and when I came he showed us around the Upton area before we moved in there, and he was just an all-round great guy.
"He was literally the first man that I saw when I walked in (at Northampton), I think it was him and Tom Newey.
"I read Alex MacDonald at Mansfield, Joel Byrom at Mansfield and Northampton, and they have all said the same thing.
"We are in shock to be honest. We have got a group chat and we just can't believe what happened.
"I had a great time with Lee on and off the pitch, and I have a young family myself, and it is just devastating news.
"I don't know how they even get over that, and for it to happen to a 32-year-old man who is still playing in the game, we are just in shock.
"I spoke to Rico, and he was great friends with him, so if anybody needs a chat then we are all there for them, that's for sure.
"Nobody can believe it."
As well as being a great man off the pitch, Collins was also a very good player on it.
In his career he made more than 450 appearances, with 86 of those being played with distinction in the claret and white of the Cobblers, and was part of the Town team that reached the league two play-off final in 2013, losing to Bradford City at Wembley.
Collins was a whole-hearted and underrated player. He was quick, comfortable in possession, versatile and as brave as they come, and Holmes was certainly a fan.
"As a player I think Lee has been captain at every club he has been at," said the former Town winger.
"That just tells you the kind of stature of man he was, and the support he gave to other players.
"I always wanted him on my team in the five-a-sides, he was always my first pick because he was aggressive, quick, he was very strong, and just an all-round good player.
"He would also wear his heart on his sleeve, so every day he would train properly and was a really good pro.
"Lee was somebody we all looked up to because he did everything right, and that was even off the pitch.
"When there was time to have a good social and have a drink, him and Rico would gather the boys together, and he just brought a smile to the face of everybody around him."
And he added: "I was on the end of a few of his tackles as well! I was just happy he was in my team once when I was at Northampton!
"He had the lot to be honest, and he was unlucky not to play higher if I am honest because he had every attribute going. He was a tough man."