West Ham take heart from Collins on strong opening day for Allardyce's men
21:30 GMT, 19 August 2012
James Collins left Upton Park after his second West Ham debut with his right ankle strapped up.
‘It’s fine, just wear and tear… like every game,’ said the Welshman.
That will be music to manager Sam Allardyce’s ears after Collins' brilliant display in the heart of the West Ham defence on Saturday.
If Hammers supporters had forgotten
exactly what Collins is all about, then it would not have taken them
long to remember during the opening day 1-0 win over Aston Villa.
Brave: James Collins (centre) gets stuck in
Off and running: Kevin Nolan celebrates after scoring the only goal of the game for West Ham
What they need in the window…
West Ham: More creativity in midfield. Kevin Nolan, Mark Noble and Mohamed Diame were all solid performers but they need a spark. Would the Wolves winger Matt Jarvis provide it
Aston Villa: More potency in the attacking third. Paul Lambert’s new team saw plenty of the ball in the early stages of this game but created almost nothing.
The 28-year-old was magnificent: headers, last-ditch blocks and well-timed interceptions galore. ‘Obviously, I’ve got love for West Ham from when I was previously here — when I left I didn’t really want to,’ said Collins, who went to Villa in 2009.
‘The club were struggling for money and sold me. But I think the West Ham fans knew I didn’t want to go. So to come back, and come back a better player I think, is great.’
Given that Collins left Villa on August 1, Allardyce is likely to have tapped into his knowledge when perfecting Saturday’s game plan.
But as the central defender admits, there was a degree of apprehension about facing his former club so soon after his exit.
Winner: Nolan got on the end of Ricardo Vaz Te's cross to put West Ham in front
‘I’m not sure me knowing Villa so well
helped me personally because obviously you don’t want to make a
horrendous mistake against your old club,’ said Collins.
‘On the other hand, I do have an
insight into their team which could have helped. It was always going to
be a strange one for me. The start of my second spell at the club and
playing against boys I left two weeks ago, it was strange in the lead-up
to the game.
‘One minute you are playing with them
and the next minute you are not. I still speak to a lot of the Villa
boys on the phone because it was only two weeks ago that I left.
‘But as soon as I got out on the pitch, I was just concentrating on getting three points for West Ham and playing well.
Controversy: Aston Villa felt there was an offside in the build-up to West Ham's goal
‘Was there any thought of me staying at Villa I don’t think it was there for me to say, if I’m honest.
‘We had a tough couple of seasons and Villa were looking for a change and I was looking for a change.
‘So it was never going to be possible
for me to stay, not for any other reason than there was no contract
offered to me. So as soon as West Ham came in it was a no-brainer.’
Collins was key in stemming an eye-catching early Villa tide as Paul Lambert’s side threatened to overrun West Ham.
Despite the first-day defeat, the new passing style under Lambert offers cause for optimism at Villa Park.
Plan: Paul Lambert says Darren Bent (right) needs more supply
‘We have got to give Darren Bent more
service, because I thought we had a lot of the ball, especially in the
first half-hour,’ said Lambert.
‘I thought we knocked it about really
well and started well. But we never worked the ball and we had to try to
create. When we had that ball, we have to try to be more penetrative.
‘My players are footballers. I don’t
have anybody who just kicks the ball up the pitch. We try to play the
right way, I don’t want to see the ball just smacked up long. If we can
pass, we must pass.’
In contrast, Collins added: ‘We knew
that Villa would pass the ball, I played a couple of games for them out
in America and that’s his philosophy: to pass the ball.
‘I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but as much as they passed it, they didn’t get near the goal.’