West Ham defender reaches 200 appearances with superb display at Cheltenham
PUBLISHED: 13:00 24 August 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
Hammers birthday boy James Collins shows why he is worth his place in the team
West Ham defender James Collins has seen it all before. He has been to the League Cup final with Aston Villa, been to the lower leagues with Cardiff City and suffered giant-killings with the Hammers.
So it was fitting that he celebrated his 34th birthday and combined it with his 200th appearance to help the team overcome Cheltenham Town in the second round of the EFL Cup on Wednesday night.
“I have played in the final with Villa and it is a great competition to be in,” said the birthday boy after the 2-0 win. “You have got to have a right go at it. It is a good tournament for our squad and it is a day out at Wembley at the end if it, which everybody can enjoy.”
West Ham have a long way to go before that, but they would have been relieved to get past this potential banana skin, while a home draw against Bolton Wanderers was a welcome one.
“I said before the game how important it was to keep a clean sheet and whether it is against Cheltenham or anyone else, it is important to the team.
“This game was always going to be big and I think some of the boys didn’t realise that. It is never easy coming to places like here.
“I did it in my younger days with Cardiff so maybe that’s why I am more used to it than the other boys. Any game is hard, you come here and Cheltenham are desperate to beat a Premier League team, but our boys were very professional.”
Goals from Diafra Sakho and Andre Ayew late in the first half were the difference between the two teams and though the Robins had their moments, Adrian did not really have a lot to do.
Collins had time to praise two of his team-mates in particular, starting with Sakho.
“He has had a very tough time, but every time I have played with Diafra or even when I have watched him, he is a dangerous centre forward.”
And he also had special words for Declan Rice, 16 years his junior. “He has been spot on. I spoke to the manager about him pre-season. He is going to be a tremendous player.
“The thing I like about him the most is that he is one of the lads already. When I was a lad I was a bit tentative and a bit shy, but he is full of confidence and that has shown on the pitch.”
Collins was man of the match in this game and surely that will be enough to include him on Saturday at Newcastle.
“I don’t seem to celebrate birthdays now I am 34,” he said. “I heard before the game it was 200 and it was a long time coming – 10 years for 200 games, I would have liked to have got there quicker, but to do that for this wonderful club is a great honour.”
For the fans too.
West Ham ratings: Adrian 7, Byram 6, Collins 9*, Ogbonna 7, Masuaku 6, Rice 8, Obiang 6, Noble 7 (Kouyate, 73 , 6), Fernandes 7 (Quina, 88), Ayew 7, Sakho 8 (Hernandez, 64, 6).
Unused: Hart, Cresswell, Fonte, Haksabanovic.