Coach Neill Collins is leaving the Rowdies to take over at Barnsley FC of English Football League One, the team announced Thursday in a news release.
Saturday’s match against Oakland Roots SC at Al Lang Stadium will be his last with Tampa Bay.
“We bid farewell to Neill Collins with a mixture of pride and sadness,” Rowdies owner Stuart Sternberg said in the release. “While we are saddened by his departure as head coach of the Rowdies, we are immensely proud of the success our club has achieved, both on and off the field, under his guidance.”
Collins, 39, was appointed as head coach of the Rowdies in 2018 after two years as a player on the team. He led the club to victories in 98 of 175 matches across all competitions over six seasons in the USL Championship league.
“I’ve been so fortunate during my time here to work with so many great people,” Collins said. “The professionalism and attitude of the players and staff have made my life a lot easier. I’m especially grateful to our previous owner Bill Edwards for giving me this chance and to our current owner Stuart Sternberg and our leadership group, who have given us the platform to go and do what we do best.
“The fans’ support has never wavered since I took this job. We’ve done everything apart from winning a championship. That’s probably the only disappointment I’ll look back on in my time here, but we’ve had so many unbelievable moments.”
Collins was named USL Championship Coach of the Year in 2021, after guiding the Rowdies to the league’s best regular-season record and a club-record 71 points. He led Tampa Bay to four straight playoff appearances, including two Eastern Conference titles.
Collins’ 85 regular-season wins entering Saturday’s match are tied for fourth-most in USL Championship history.
“Neill’s leadership and dedication have left an indelible mark on our organization, and we are eternally grateful for the tremendous work he has done and delighted to see him further his career as a young coach,” said Rowdies vice chairman Brian Auld. “We thank Neill for his invaluable contributions and wish him the very best in his new position.”
The Rowdies will honor Collins with a special video tribute to be played on the Al Lang video board following Saturday’s match.
“When I came here seven years ago, I didn’t expect this club to become such a big part of my life, but it has for me and my family,” Collins said. “The biggest thing when you leave any club is that you want to be able to come back in the future to support it and be welcomed. I hope that’s the case.”
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Assistant Stuart Dobson will serve as interim head coach while the team searches for Collins’ replacement.
“While change can be bittersweet, our commitment to excellence remains unwavering,” said Rowdies vice chairman Matt Silverman. “We will continue to field a top-tier team that competes for championships and entertains our devoted fans.”