AFTER speaking to various people who have worked with Neill Collins or watched him from the press box on both sides of the Atlantic, it becomes clear that he ticks many of the boxes to be a successful head coach at Barnsley.
His former managers and team-mates use the phrases ‘top bloke’, ‘leader’, ‘professional’ and ‘popular’ to describe him.
When outlining his style of play at Tampa Bay Rowdies, accounts of a high-pressing side not focused on possession, clearly-defined roles for each player, playing on the front foot and attacking down the flanks through wing-backs and over-lapping centre-backs could be talking about Barnsley last season.
We will only know for sure over the next weeks and months, but that makes him seem like a continuity candidate after Michael Duff’s exit and a good fit for the Reds.
The obvious question marks are over his ability to transfer his success from Florida to South Yorkshire.
As the nation that invented the sport, we English can sometimes patronisingly look down our noses at leagues in other countries – especially the likes of the USA who are not a traditional heavyweight internationally or domestically.
The second tier in the States would not automatically jump out at many English fans as a proving ground for a successful EFL boss.
Winning with the Rowdies on the idyllic Florida coastline with no promotion and relegation in a minority sport, is very different to taking over a club which is the lifeblood of the town and being immediately expected by many to get them back into the Championship. But the quality and popularity of the sport across the pond is ever-increasing while Collins is used to being a head coach and working with young players which will also be his role at Oakwell.
Collins and his predecessor Duff had similar playing careers – dominant centre-backs with a series of promotions on their CVs.
They both began in amateur football after being released from academies, and even both worked in supermarkets before turning professional.
But, despite years playing in the EFL, Collins does not have the kind of experience in England that Duff arrived at Oakwell with after four seasons with Cheltenham Town in League One and League Two.
It is true that Collins actually has more experience as a manager than the man he replaces – having taken over at Tampa months before Duff got the Cheltenham job – but in very different leagues.
If the Reds do hit a rough patch, that may be the criticism thrown at the club and Collins – but they have to be given time to make it work.
The advantage Collins has over his predecessor is that, thanks to Duff’s good work, he will inherit a more united and well-drilled squad than a year previously – even if the new season is just weeks away and they may still be haunted by that Wembley defeat.
The majority of the group which came fourth in League One and were agonisingly close to promotion remain, with about six weeks to add to it in the transfer window.
The news that Luca Connell has signed a long-term contract is very welcome, with Barnsley also recently adding years onto Liam Kitching's deal – sensible moves to secure some of their top assets and, in theory, ensure large fees if they ever leave.
In many ways, Collins has been given a fantastic opportunity to make his name in English football management. That said, pre-season this year has not gone totally smoothly so far.
This week has brought fury from portions of the fanbase over the decision to replace long-serving club photographer Keith Turner with an agency.
Then there has been the worrying news that the Reds have been charged with breaching EFL rules, the consequences of which are so far unknown.
Barnsley had to pull out of an under 21s friendly at non-league Guiseley this week due to the number of players from that age group needed for first team training in Collins’ first week.
Three of the first team friendlies are being played behind-closed-doors for various reasons, including next week’s meeting with Blackburn which was due to be in front of fans at Oakwell but will now be at a different venue.
Although there was nothing the Reds could do about this, the match at Fylde on Saturday being called off due to a thunderstorm seemed to sum up a summer which has felt, from the outside at least, very stop-start.
But the next month will involve some intense work on the training pitch under Collins as well as regular friendlies – plus hopefully some new signings to strengthen the squad.
They will clearly be looking to strengthen the options up front and for the back three, following the sale of Mads Andersen. With the new boss’ namesake Brad Collins set to leave, a goalkeeper may rise swiftly to the top of the incomings list.
It could be a bumpy start for the new man but he seems to have the tools to be successful in the long run.