The death of Ivan Hollett at the age of 81 has caused football supporters all over Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to reflect fondly on his lengthy career.
Pinxton-born Ivan first came to notice as a 16-year-old with Somercotes Athletic, and the first club to notice him was Chesterfield. He came to us for a trial in October 1956 and was invited to try out for Derby two months later. He signed amateur forms for the Rams in January 1957.
Ivan first dipped a toe into professional waters by joining Sutton Town as a part-time pro, and it was from there that he joined Mansfield Town for a £300 fee in August 1958. Noted for having a distinctive long stride, he came as an inside-left but was called upon to play as a centre-forward, where he notched 15 goals in 21 games as the Stags were relegated from Division Three in 1960/61.
He managed only one from his first nine games in the following season and became the subject of barracking from a home crowd forced to watch their side struggle to keep out of the re-election places.
Nine goals came from 19 games as Mansfield went back up to the Third Division in 1961/62 but Ivan had by then assumed the status of “first reserve” to the forward line. Ken Wagstaff was always going to be difficult to dislodge, but it seemed to be the case that Ivan would come into the side, announce his return with a goal or two, but be left out as soon as the player he replaced was fit again.
Mansfield began to circulate his name to other clubs as early as 1962. Chesterfield enquired about him in February 1964, but nothing came of the idea; The Spireites had no money to pay a fee and had no players that interested the Stags for a player exchange. QPR sniffed around, but nothing came of that, either. Millwall had an offer accepted by Mansfield in June 1964 but the player turned the move down, so Ivan stayed where he was, in and out of the team, until December 1964.
On December 9, 1964 a car carrying four Chesterfield players crashed on the A1 at Colsterworth, near Grantham. Of the four players, Ralph Hunt, the team’s centre-forward, was most seriously injured, and died from his injuries eight days later.
Chesterfield’s need, rather than any lack of respect, meant the search for Hunt’s replacement began the day after the crash and was concluded shortly after Hunt died with the signing of Ivan Hollett. A fee of £1,000 was agreed, with the low fee being hailed as a gesture of sympathy and support from the Stags towards their local rivals. Ivan had scored 40 league goals in 98 Mansfield games.
Ivan made his Chesterfield debut on December 22, 1964, at Bradford (Park Avenue.) He scored his first Spireite goal in his next game, in an inauspicious 7-1 Boxing Day defeat at York. By the end of the season Ivan had scored nine goals in just 22 games, ending as joint-top scorer and showing the promise of more to come.
He began averaging a goal every other game in 1965/66 before being carried off at Barrow with a broken collar bone, after an attempted acrobatic shot went wrong. He struggled upon returning and, although he finished top scorer with 20 goals from 37 games, six of those were scored in the last seven.
The team struggled to score consistently in the mid ‘sixties and Ivan was often the one to drop out as Tony McShane tried what might politely be described as “innovative solutions” to the problem. Albert Holmes, Albert Phelan and the veteran Dave Blakey were all thrown the number 9 shirt, usually with no success.
It was felt among knowledgeable observers that Ivan would benefit from playing in an attacking partnership, rather than being the sole centre-forward option, but this wasn’t addressed until Kevin Randall and Billy Stark came to the club in 1966. The trio scored 40 goals between them. Ivan began attracting the scouts again, with the likes of Everton, Manchester City, Stoke and Aston Villa making polite inquiries.
In January 1967 Ivan used his spare time to run coaching courses at a school in Alfreton, and a post-playing direction to his career became evident. In the following season – 1967/68 – he began coaching Alfreton Town more regularly, while continuing to play for Chesterfield: he and Kevin Randall scored 36 goals between them as the club made its first serious push for promotion from Division Four.
The game for which Ivan is most remembered came in this season, at Blackpool, in the FA Cup. The third round tie started badly for the Spireites, who were trailing to a Peter Neale own goal when Ivan slipped his marker to get his head onto an Andy Wilson cross, to level the scores three minutes before half-time. The rest of the game was more even after that, but Blackpool were able to retain sufficient control to progress after the gifted Tony Green scored what turned out to be the winning goal.
The 1968/69 season was Ivan’s last, with Chesterfield. Bill Curry’s contest for his place came and went, but with only two goals to his name from the opening 15 games, a new challenger emerged in the shape of Ernie Moss. Young, raw, but with a thirst for learning, Ernie had much in common with the man he replaced when he was preferred to Ivan on October 26, 1968 at the same Park Avenue ground in Bradford where Ivan had made his Spireites bow. Within a couple of weeks Ivan went on the transfer list at his own request, and Crewe came in with an offer of £6,000.
His time at Crewe ran to three seasons; relegated from Division Three in his first, the last two were undistinguished, from the club’s point of view. Stoke came back in for him at one point but he was injured in the game before he was due to sign, and that was that. Ivan was ready to move again when Cambridge United, new to the league and struggling to avoid re-election, came in for him in November 1970.
His experience helped the U’s keep out of danger and was noticed by Hereford United when they ascended to Football League status. He joined the Bulls in the summer of 1972 and played 11 times, scoring twice, in their first and his last season of fully professional football. By the end of his Football League career, Ivan had played 363 games and scored 136 goals, with 62 of those goals coming from 157 Chesterfield games.
After a short spell in South Africa Ivan served as player/coach to Southern League Poole Town, before becoming player/manager to Alfreton Town in 1975. The Reds won the Midland League under his management in 1976/77, and along with co-manager John Harrison, he repeated the feat at Belper Town in 1979/80. He undertook management and coaching roles at several other non-league sides in Nottinghamshire before returning to the full-time game as a scout and coach to Mansfield Town’s youth team. His prodigious appetite for watching football meant that he became a familiar sight for non-league fans in this area.
Away from football, Ivan took up the career of a sales representative with local firms involved in the mining and metals industries. He retired to live in Riddings until ill-health led to a move into a nursing home.