West Ham United are delighted to announce the return to the club of Wales defender James Collins.

Collins has signed a four-year contract after re-joining the Hammers from Aston Villa for an undisclosed fee, three years after leaving the Boleyn Ground for Villa Park.

Capped 39 times by his country, the popular centre-back was part of the West Ham side that completed a great escape from Premier League relegation in 2007, impressing the Boleyn Ground faithful with his power and commitment.

Collins, who will challenge Hammer of the Year runner-up James Tomkins and New Zealand international Winston Reid for a place in Sam Allardyce's starting XI, said he was happy to be back in east London.

"It's great to be back," 'Ginge' told West Ham TV. "Obviously having been here before and coming back and seeing some of the same old faces is great.

"As soon as I knew the interest was there from West Ham I couldn't wait to get down and sign. I had a great affinity with the club and the fans when I was here the first time and I enjoyed my time here so much last time that it wasn't a hard decision to make, to be honest.

"I think everyone knew that I didn't really want to leave when I did [in 2009] because I was enjoying my time here so much. I've come back and I'm a much better player this time around so I can't wait to get cracking and show the fans that I am a better player and can put in the performances on the pitch.

"I've got so many good memories - getting into the FA Cup final in my first season and finishing so high [ninth] in the league and then the way we escaped relegation that year was one of my fondest memories in football. Hopefully I won't have too many more memories like that!

"I just cannot wait to get back and show the fans what a better player I am now."

Now 28, Newport-born Collins began his career with Cardiff CIty, helping the Bluebirds to win promotion to the Championship in 2003 before being voted Welsh Young Player of the Year two years later.

In July 2005, Collins and Cardiff team-mate Danny Gabbidon swapped the Welsh capital for the English one by joining West Ham for a combined £3.5m. The pair played a role as the newly-promoted Hammers finished ninth in the Premier League and reached the FA Cup final in 2005/06.

The following season, 2006/07, saw Collins break into the first team on a regular basis and show his outstanding talents as West Ham won seven of their final nine Premier League matches to stay up on the final day of the campaign. Collins suffered an unfortunate knee ligament injury in January 2008, but returned to action a year later before proving his fitness.

James Collins
James Collins was part of the Great Escape in 2007

Aston Villa took the centre-back to the Midlands in September 2009 and Collins quickly forged a solid partnership with Republic of Ireland stalwart Richard Dunne at Villa Park. Over three seasons, the Welshman totalled 109 appearances and six goals for the Villans, including a start in the 2010 League Cup final defeat by Manchester United.

At international level, Collins made his debut for the senior Wales side against Norway in 2004 and has since gone on to score twice in 39 appearances. He was an ever-present during Wales' 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign and has captained his country.

West Ham TV