Published: 05:00, 14 January 2022
The band are back together after Frannie Collin’s move to Ashford - but the tune is a little different these days.
Collin was ready to sit out the rest of the season after leaving Hythe at the end of November.
But the chance to link up again with Tommy Warrilow and Jay May tempted him back and Collin made his debut as a second-half substitute in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Lancing.
The forward enjoyed the most prolific season of his career under Warrilow at Tonbridge, scoring 29 goals to win the Conference South golden boot before joining Maidstone in 2013.
He formed a deadly partnership with May at Longmead, one they reformed at the Stones, and they’ve also played together at Hastings and Margate.
It won’t be quite like old times for the friends reunited, for Collin sees a different side to Warrilow these days while a new role means he’s unlikely to partner May.
“Do you know what? Tom’s mellowed a bit,” said Collin.
“I say mellowed, he’s still as passionate as ever but in terms of working himself up, he’s definitely mellowed.
“It was a big pull, the chance to play for him again.
“I almost signed here three years ago before I joined Hythe and I always speak to Tom every two or three months.
“When I left Hythe, I was probably going to write the season off. I spoke to a few clubs but I wasn’t looking to get back in and then I spoke to Tom a couple of times.
“The first time he said about coming in I brushed it off, and then I went to watch a game and got the bug back and he called me between Christmas and New Year and I’ve ended up signing.
“I’ve always got on with my managers but Tom got the best individual season out of me I’ve ever had.
“That’s why I love playing for him because he knows when to put an arm round you and when to give you a rollicking.
“As attacking players, he lets you go and play and you can see that by the amount of goals Ashford score. They throw bodies forward.
“I don’t know how the defenders feel about it but from an attacking player’s point of view, he’s a dream manager.
“I jump in with Jay going down there - this is the fifth club we’ve been at together.
“He’s still as big a handful as ever and massive to how we’re going to play but I think I’ll be playing a deeper role than I used to, more than partnering Jay.”
Ashford are blessed with attacking options while, at 34, a change in role suits Collin’s game.
“Tom’s basically said to me he’s got Jay and Liam Friend as two experienced lads but other than that he’s not got a lot of experience,” he said.
“Most of the other lads are younger boys, Tom’s after a bit more experience and he knows I can play that deeper role.
“I looked at the squad the other day and there’s eight or nine attacking players so I don’t think I’d get much game time up front anyway!
“I’ve never been a forward who’s blessed with pace or a Jay-type player, I’ve always been a forward that relies on chances created or I’ve had to go roaming to get involved.
“I know we’re doing well but if you’re playing in a team up top who aren’t doing well, you can go 25-30 minutes without touching the ball.
“But, playing deeper, you can get on the ball and be a lot more involved.
“Tom’s different in that he’s happy to go with two out-and-out centre-forwards. Not many managers do now.
“It’s normally one up, one off and two widemen but when you pass 30 and you’re up there on your own, it’s a hell of a lot of work off the ball.
“As I’ve got older, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to get on the ball more and, playing deeper, you see everything in front of you.
“Touch wood, I’ve been quite fortunate with injuries, I’ve not picked up anything big in my career and once you get to 33/34 it’s about enjoying your football.
“All the time I enjoy being part of it and have that enthusiasm to go out and train on a Thursday night when it's freezing cold, that’s the main thing.
“When that goes, it’s time to call it a day.”
Goals from May and Tashi-Jay Kwayie gave second-placed Ashford a 2-0 lead against Lancing but the visitors salvaged a draw.
That leaves the Nuts & Bolts four points behind Isthmian South East leaders Hastings, with a game in hand.
Warrilow’s side meet promotion rivals Haywards Heath at Homelands this Saturday.