The Big Interview - James Collins

James Collins had a weekend to remember after making a successful return to first-team action against Stoke when he helped the Hammers keep a clean sheet and was then left celebrating a dream draw when Wales were picked to face England in the Euro Finals next summer.

Collins has suffered a frustrating spell in recent weeks after he was forced to serve a three-match ban following his dismissal against Watford at the end of October.

But the 32-year-old worked hard in training and earned a recall to the starting line-up last weekend and looked like he had never been away with a superb display at the heart of the defence.

Collins is already counting down the days to the big showpiece event taking place in France next summer and insists Wales will not be going to the tournament just to make the numbers up.


James, we have seen the draw made for the Euro Finals next summer. Could you quite believe when Wales were drawn in the same group as England?

JC: “We sort of knew it was coming. The lads spoke about it before that we would probably get England in our group when we looked at the pots.

“It is great to play them and I have already had a lot of people on the phone asking if they can get tickets for the game!”


Roy Hodgson has said that England will have to stop Gareth Bale if they are to win the game. From Wales point of view I am sure you will want him to steal all the headlines?

JC: “We definitely want him to do that. He has been unbelievable for us over the qualifying campaign over the last two-years and he is doing well at Real Madrid.

“He is a world class player but it is not just about Gaz. This is by far the best squad we have had for a long time and most of the players are playing in the Premier League every week so it is an exciting time for both teams.”


England have enjoyed a rich vein of form in the qualifying campaign winning all ten games and were top of their group. How confident are you that Wales can get the right result?

JC: “They are playing well, but so are Wales. Obviously I used to watch England in the tournaments and they were hyped up to win when they go there and I am sure it will happen again.

“They will be expecting to win it and hopefully that will take the focus off us. Hopefully we can concentrate on ourselves, get out of the group and see how far we can go.”


From a personal point of view how much do you want to put things right against England having been on the losing side for a couple games?

JC: “Many years ago when we were not as good as we are now I played against England a few times and not come out on the right side of the result.

“But we have a different looking Welsh side coming into this game and I am sure we can give them a good test.


Knowing Chris Coleman like you do, do you think he will relish the chance to take on England next summer?

JC: “I think everyone involved will. When you play a team of England's quality it is exciting for everyone to look forward to.

“There is a lot of work to be done before those games but it is one that all Welsh fans and I am sure all England fans will be excited about.”


With the form that Wales are showing at the moment, do you go to the tournament and not fear playing anyone?

JC: “We are not just going there to make up the numbers. We qualified out of the group with some tremendous away performances.

“We didn't concede many goals and we are very confident. Looking at the group we will be a bit disappointed if we don't qualify.”


Back to West Ham matters, it was great for you to come back into the side and keep a clean sheet. Despite the fact we had to settle for a draw against Stoke, how many positives can you take out of the game?

JC: “I know a lot of people are talking about the injuries but the players who have come in have done very well. It was a tough game on Saturday and they are probably the best Stoke side I have played against for a long time.

“They are different to what they were a few years-ago and with a bit more luck in front of goal we could have won the game, but a draw was probably a fair result.”


People talk about the injuries but with Enner Valencia back in action, Manuel Lanzini set for a first-team return and Dimitri Payet ahead of schedule, that must be a big boost for all the players

JC: “That is great news. It is certainly better than a few weeks ago when we seemed to be getting bad news all the time on injuries.

“Enner is back and Manu is not that far away which is a big boost. But the players who have come in have done a great job and I thought Michail Antonio was tremendous on Saturday. That is why the owners spent the money to give us a big squad and that is what we have got.”


Is this a good or bad time to be playing Swansea on Sunday?

JC: “As an ex Cardiff player it is always a good time to be playing against Swansea. I am sure they will get in a new manager soon and the players will be looking impress him.

“We know we are going to face a tough game on Sunday but we can take a lot of confidence out of the Stoke game and the performance at Old Trafford the week before.

“We are confident we can perform well and get the points. The manager has spoke about us getting back on the winning trail in the next few games. We are defending well and we need a bit of luck in front of goal.”