John Hollins dead at 76: Ex-England, Arsenal and Chelsea star and dad of Strictly Come Dancing winner Chris dies | The Sun

FORMER Chelsea and Arsenal defender John Hollins has died aged 76.

The Blues have paid tribute to the ex-England international, who has been hailed as a "hero".

An official statement from Chelsea read: "Chelsea Football Club is greatly saddened to announce the passing of our former player and manager John Hollins MBE at the age of 76. All at the club send our heartfelt condolences to John’s family and friends."

On behalf of the club's owners and directors, Lord Daniel Finkelstein added: "We were so sorry to hear of the death of John Hollins. He was a hero to the fans of this club, and very much that to me.

"He was at the heart of one of Chelsea's greatest teams and, as well as contributing to its trophy success, he expressed its spirit. He lifted up the team with his play and lit up the Bridge with his smile.

"He gave a life of service to this club, as a player, as a manager and as a match-day ambassador. He was greatly loved and will be much missed."

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Hollins' son, Chris, also released a statement on behalf of the family.

It read: "John was always so modest about the role he played in Chelsea’s history. He was only 15 when he signed for the club and went on to win trophies in those incredible sides of the '60s and '70s.

"He had so many stories, but he always told us he just loved running out at the Bridge and wearing that famous blue shirt. We will miss him as a husband, a father and grandfather and will always be proud of what he achieved in the game."

In addition to his statement, Chris – who won BBC's Strictly Come Dancing in 2009 – tweeted: "My hero, best friend and dad left us today. He was so modest but I will say it.

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"He was a great player, brilliant team mate and one hell of a person. My Mum, sister and all his grandchildren will miss him so much."

A spokesperson from England also tweeted: "We are saddened to hear that John Hollins MBE, who played for the #ThreeLions in 1967, has passed away aged 76. All of our thoughts are with his family and friends."

Hollins burst onto the scene when he made his Chelsea debut at the age of 17 in 1963.

The midfielder-turned defender left the Blues in 1975 to join Queens Park Rangers, where he made 183 appearances.

He signed for Arsenal in 1979 before returning to Chelsea four years later.

Hollins ended his playing career having won the FA Cup, the League Cup and a European Cup Winners' Cup.

He was also named Chelsea's Player of the Season twice and Arsenal's Player of the Season in 1982.

Hollins made just one appearance for England during his playing days, in a 2-0 win over Spain in May 1967.

After calling time on his career as a player, he then went on to manage eight different clubs – including Chelsea and QPR – before retiring in 2008.

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