James Collins struggled to keep the smile off his face after putting in a Man of the Match performance in Saturday's 1-0 Barclays Premier League win over former club Aston Villa.

Many could have forgiven Collins if he found it tough to perform against a club he left just a few weeks ago, but the Wales international put in an outstanding display, winning header after header and making a series of important blocks.

'Ginge' and fellow centre-back Winston Reid formed a formidable partnership and kept Villa - including England striker Darren Bent - at bay for the whole 90 minutes.

"Saturday was really good," he told West Ham TV. "It was always going to be a strange one for me making my second West Ham debut against a club I only left two weeks ago.

"It felt very strange prior to kick-off but as soon as I got out onto the pitch and heard the roar of the crowd it all became a lot easier."

Collins was presented with the Man of the Match award by sponsors LycaMobile after his combative defending saw Jussi Jaaskelainen relatively untested throughout the entirety of the game.

"I am not sure how well I did. You never want to make a huge mistake against your old club and thankfully I didn't, so maybe having an insight having just left the club helped me.

"I'm still settling in but I feel good. As soon as I walked onto the pitch the only thing I was focused on was getting three points for West Ham and performing well - hopefully I did both.

James Collins

A bumper 34,000-plus crowd at the Boleyn Ground was in terrific voice throughout the match and Collins was particularly pleased by the personal ovation he received.

"It was a great reception. I obviously had a great love for the club when I was here before and truth be told I didn't want to leave in the first place.

"I think the club was struggling for a bit of money and needed to rebuild. I feel the West Ham fans knew that I didn't want to leave so to come back to that reception and come back a better player was great."

Collins also revealed that he jumped at the chance to re-join the club and didn't need to think twice when the opportunity arose to play for West Ham in the Barclays Premier League again.

"I knew that I wanted to return straight away. Settling in has been easy. I still know a few of the boys and a lot of the backroom staff so it was a great move for me.

"As I mentioned, I would like to think I have come back a better player than I was when I left. It's an exciting time for the club and a great opportunity for me to show the fans how good I am."

Aston Villa are now under the stewardship of Paul Lambert after he joined the club following a terrific spell with Norwich City, but Collins believes the time was right for a change.

"I don't think the opportunity was there [at Villa] to be honest. I think they were looking for a change and I was looking for a change so I don't think it was ever going to be possible for me to stay.

"I was not offered a new contract and I felt the time was right to move on, so as soon as West Ham came in for me I knew what I wanted to do."

Looking ahead, Collins feels that a top-ten finish is possible for a Hammers squad that has ability, confidence and spirit in abundance.

"Looking at the way we played on Saturday we have to be aiming for the top ten or as near to the top of the table as possible. We have a good squad and we looked fitter than Aston Villa. We have had a great pre-season, have some powerful midfielders and have a lot of pace going forward.

"To come into a team with such good team spirit is great. The lads obviously had a very good year last year and their confidence has carried through.

"We might not have passed the ball as well as we could have but the fight and the passion shown by the lads is something we can all be proud of."

The Hammers have lost just once at the Boleyn Ground in 2012 and Collins stated that their home form will play a vital part in any success they have this term.

"Our home form is going to be key but if the fans continue to boost us like they did on Saturday throughout the course of the season there is no reason why we can't produce.

"Like I mentioned we have a great squad with a good blend of experience and youth which will stand us in good stead."

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