Collins' delight at Downing arrival

James Collins knows a thing or two about wingers who can put in dangerous crosses.

The West Ham United centre-back has been heading and hacking away deliveries from the Barclays Premier League's top widemen for the past eight seasons.

Seven of those seasons were spent repelling crosses from Stewart Downing during the England international's spells with Middlesbrough and Liverpool, while the other, 2011/12 was spent as team-mates at Aston Villa. As a result, the Wales international is in a perfect position to comment on the outstanding ability possessed by West Ham's new No23.

"Stewart is a great lad and can deliver with either foot," Collins told the Official Programme. "People think he is left-footed, but I played with him for a couple of years and he can go either way. He's quick, too.

"He's got loads of England caps so we've got a great signing there. For the money we have got him for, when you look at his form and performances in years gone by, I think we've got an absolute bargain."

Downing has been voted Player of the Year at his former clubs three times - twice at Middlesbrough and once at Aston Villa. He then spent two years at Anfield, making 91 appearances, including a man-of-the-match display in the 2012 League Cup final win over Saturday's visitors Cardiff.

"The year we were at Aston Villa together he got Player of the Year and he was outstanding during what was a bad season for the team," Collins explained. "I've seen what he can do on a day-to-day basis and hopefully he can change here and have a new lease of life.

"It's a great changing room to come into and he'll certainly feel comfortable here so hopefully we'll see his best football."

Cardiff cover

A year on from re-joining the Club after a four-year absence and helping West Ham to a fine tenth-place Barclays Premier League finish last term, Collins is loving life in a claret and blue shirt.

With Andy Carroll, Razvan Rat and Adrian also moving to east London this summer alongside Downing, the No19 feels the Hammers can kick on again in 2013/14.

"It's great. Last year we did well but every year you have to strengthen and bring in fresh faces and to be fair to the Board and the Gaffer and his staff, they have done a great job.

"From a personal point of view, coming into our dressing room was so easy because it's such a tight-knit group but they are very welcoming. That makes it easier for any new signing and hopefully it'll make everybody more comfortable and able to produce their best football this season."