Scottish footballer scales the heights in Lochaber

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Former Scottish footballer John Collins made climbing Ben Nevis his goal to help raise funds to get an injured player from his home town club back on the field.

The Collins brothers stride out. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos.

Accompanied by his older brother Norrie, 59, the ex-Hibernian and Celtic midfielder completed the challenge in five hours, boosting an appeal to raise £8,000 to pay for an operation to get injured Gala Fairydean Rovers defender Ben Herdman playing again.

The crowdfunding appeal launched last month is now 55 per cent of the way to its target, having raised more than £4,400.

The climb was the second for the 53-year-old, who was capped 58 times for Scotland between 1988 and 1999, and the fifth for brother Norrie, a committee member at the Galashiels club, the last time being more than a decade ago.

‘We didn’t hang around as my little brother’s quite impatient and wants to keep moving,’ said Norrie.

‘We’re both fitness fanatics and in pretty good shape for our ages but felt it a bit in our legs a couple of days later.

‘The weather was good to us and we got some great views. Raising money for Ben was the most important part and we did that, so it was all worth it.’

Ben Herdman, 24, injured his left knee five minutes into Rovers’ first game of this Scottish Lowland Football League season and requires surgery before he’ll be able to play again.

It’s uncertain how long he’d have to wait for treatment at a National Health Service hospital, but it could be years rather than months due to the backlog for operations being caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It is hoped money raised through the appeal will pay for a private operation, expected to cost about £8,000.

John Collins, who now lives in East Lothian, recorded a video message for Ben at the summit, telling him: ‘We made it. We’re thinking of you. Let’s get that operation booked in and get you back on the park at Netherdale where you’ve been badly missed.’

During his 19-year playing career, John Collins played for Hibernian, Celtic, AS Monaco, Everton and Fulham. He represented Scotland 58 times, scoring in the opening match of the 1998 FIFA World Cup against Brazil.

He started his coaching career as manager of Hibernian, winning the 2007 Scottish League Cup Final, but resigned later that year. He then had a brief spell as manager of Charleroi in 2009. Collins was appointed director of football at Livingston in February 2012, but resigned a year later. He then assisted Ronny Deila at Celtic for two years.

Any surplus funds will be donated to the Scottish Association for Mental Health.

To donate, go to https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/galafairydeanroversfc-players.

Main pic (NO_F47_Collins-Ben-climb-01-2wwyu4rzr-scaled.jpg): John, left, and Norrie Collins at the start of their climb. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos.