EX-FOOTBALLERS and loyal fans have said farewell to one of Albion’s best skippers.

James “Jimmy” Collins, who died on July 25 aged 80, was a star of the team in the 1960s and remembered as one of the best players of his era.

He was born on December 12, 1937, in Ayrshire, Scotland, and his pasion for football started early.

He played with the Lugar Boys’ Club and Lugar Boswell Thistle. The club was in the 1956 Scottish Junior Cup final where they lost to Petershill 4-1 in front of a crowd of 64,702.

That same year, Jimmy also won two Scottish junior caps.

In June 1956, Tottenham Hotspur paid £1,000 to bring the teenager to London.

He played part-time as a professional while completing both his National Service in the Army and an apprenticeship as a bricklayer.

Football coaches and analysts described Jimmy as a player with natural talent.

However, when he was with Tottenham he lived in the shadow of legendary Hotspur player and fellow Scotsman John White.

Therefore, he had made the First Division team only twice.

But his time with Tottenham eventually paid off.

He was spotted by Albion boss George Curtis who signed Jimmy for £9,000. Curtis’s decision was a smart one as Jimmy proved himself to be invaluable to the team.

After his debut in a defeat at Carlisle, Curtis said: “It speaks well for the character of this player that, after sections of the press stated he was not prepared to come to the Goldstone Ground, he had never revealed such an intention to me.

“And, on Monday, he signed forms and travelled overnight to Carlisle.

“We shall benefit from the great experience of this young and accomplished player.”

In October 1962, Jimmy arrived at The Goldstone where he was made captain almost immediately.

He made 221 appearances and he scored 48 goals from his inside-forward position.

Jimmy’s talent and personality inspired his team mates to play their best.

When Archie Macaulay took over as Albion boss in 1963, he said Jimmy was the general of the team.

Jimmy played with the club for five years and led it to the division four title in 1964-65, scoring 17 goals.

In 1967, he asked for a transfer and moved into the Southern League at the end of the season with non-league team Wimbledon.

After spending four years at Pound Lane, he returned to Sussex and played for Southwick, Shoreham and Saltdean United.

He also played for the Corals in the Sussex Sunday League into his fifties while working in the building trade.

When he retired, he did not return to live in his native Scotland but stayed in Shoreham.

His former Albion team mates fondly recalled Jimmy as one of the best players of his era.

Not only did he impress team mates and fans as a player but he was also described as an amiable person.

Ex-player Norman Gall said: “He was such a super guy.

“He came down rom Tottenham and straight away was made captain.

“He played really well. He was all over the place.

“He was wing-half and he helped me out and told everybody how to play.

“He was always very straight with you. If you didn’t do what you were supposed to, he would tell you. But he always played as well as he could. I think maybe he was disappointed to be moved out by Spurs but he always gave his all for Brighton.”

Mr Gall, who also played in the Sunday League with Jimmy, continued to visit him when his health declined.

He said: “ I still used to go and see him and he had been very poorly.

“I don’t know if he understood everything but he was still able to smile.

“He was one of the best players we have ever had – and a fantastic bloke.”

Sports commentator Peter Brackley told The Argus he had been a fan of Jimmy since he was a child.

He said: “So sad to hear the news about Jimmy Collins. He is up there with my all time favourites, along with other players of the 65 promotion team – the likes of Dave Turner, Wally Gould, Brian Powney, the Smiths and Norman Gall.”

Mr Brackley said when he played football at school he would always try to play like his idol.

He said: “Playing at school, I would be either ‘Jimmy’, trying to trap a ball and pass like him or Denis Law with my sleeves hanging over my hands. Watching Jimmy Collins had inspired me to want to get a career in sports.

“I always remember Jimmy coming out of training, signing my autograph book and then having a bite of my apple. Made my day.”