Former Celtic man John Collins explains famous pre-match wink against Brazil

By Euan Davidson

June 9, 2021

Former Celtic man John Collins made quite the impression at the World Cup in 1998.

Scotland were drawn against champions Brazil, for the curtain raiser at the Stade de France. In a brand-new stadium, built for the tournament, Craig Brown and the raucous, travelling Tartan Army couldn’t have asked for a bigger, showpiece introduction to the tournament.

Of course, few expected Scotland to do anything against Brazil. But pre-match, the team had entered the pitch in kilts, much to the appreciation of both sets of supporters. Then, later, with the national anthems playing, Craig Brown had insisted on players singing ‘Flower of Scotland’.

But he probably hadn’t insisted on, in front of an audience of a billion watching on TV, John Collins winking down the camera.

It was seen as part of Collins’ confident demeanour. Having moved to Monaco not too long ago [Herald], the classy ex-Celtic midfielder oozed self-assuredness. But the wink, as it turns out, wasn’t some cocky gesture. Speaking on Mr Brown’s Boys, a BBC documentary about Scotland at the World Cup, Collins said [BBC; 32.35]:

“Well everybody says I thought I was super cool winking, but actually, my kids were with Granny back in Monaco. She was looking after them, and I promised my girls that when the camera comes across, [I would] give a little a wink.

“So the wink was for my two little princesses back home with Granny.”

John Collins; one of many Celtic players past and present featured in the last Scotland appearance at a major tournament

Collins made up a very strong contingent of ex or current Celtic players at the World Cup in 1998. It was the last time the men’s team had got into a major tournament, and like today, the team was build on a solid foundation of Bhoys contributors.

In 1998, Craig Brown could rely on figures like Jackie McNamara, Tom Boyd, Jonathan Gould, Paul Lambert, Darren Jackson, Tosh McKinlay, Craig Burley and Simon Donnelly. Ex-Bhoys included Derek Whyte, who moved to Aberdeen and Collins, of course.

The Bhoys’ contingent had just come off a historic season, breaking Rangers’ hegemony in the Scottish top flight and stopping what would’ve been a famous 10IAR.

Beating Taffarel: not an inconsiderable task at that time / (Photo by Jean-Yves Ruszniewski/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Now, though, the Celtic lads come into Euro 2020 needing a confidence boost. Ryan Christie, to give just one example, probably needs a significant display or two at the tournament to recover his reputation with Celtic supporters.

Certainly though, it’s exciting. And now, we have the bonus of knowing what that wink was all about. Maybe we’ll see one of Clarke’s men doing the same before we kick off against the Czech Republic on Monday [UEFA].

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