Collins points way forward

James Collins has spoken about coming through his first match action since suffering a knee ligament injury at the start of the year.

The Wales defender played 45 minutes of a behind closed doors practice game at home against Queen's Park Rangers in midweek and is hoping to take the next step on the road to recovery. He had not played since being injured in a reserve game against Portsmouth in mid-January. "It is seven months since the injury happened," Collins said. "It was good to be back out there but also very strange.

"I think it was the most nervous I have ever been before a game in my life but I got through it, played 45 minutes and am just looking forward to the next game now. It is the worst injury of my career so far and it has been a long old road trying to get back but I have got one game under my belt now which is the first step really."

Collins, who turns 25 on Saturday, has been working hard at Chadwell Heath throughout the summer and is grateful for all the support he has received. He said: "When I first got the injury the surgeon seemed to think I could be out for a year or even 18 months so to be back after seven months is credit to all the medical staff here and the surgeon who did my operation."

Having played a key role in the club's survival fight in 2006/07, Collins is looking forward to returning to first-team action in the next couple of months. "I know there has been a bit of speculation about my future but I am more than happy here, the treatment I have had with my injury and the way the lads have been reinforces my desire to remain here.

"I feel like I still have a big part to play in West Ham's future so I am just looking to get my head down and concentrate on getting back as soon as possible. I think it will still be a couple of months before I am fully fit but with other centre-backs having injuries as well my aim is to get back and straight into the team."