Collins - Clash rekindles Welsh rivalry

For West Ham United’s central defender James Collins, Sunday’s trip to the Liberty Stadium will have added spice, given his background as a Cardiff City player and the chance to go up against some of his Welsh international team-mates.
Collins grew up as a Cardiff fan, and played for the Bluebirds for five years at the start of his career. While he admits the South Wales rivalry is not there as much for him personally these days, it still kicks in whenever he visits Swansea as a player.
“I do get a little bit of stick down there to be honest, which is understandable”, the Hammers stopper said. “Growing up as a Cardiff fan, I never wanted Swansea to do too well. All my pals are still Cardiff fans, so to get one over them would be nice for my mates.”
Sunday’s match will also pit Collins against some of the team-mates he is more used to playing alongside for Wales, including right-back Neil Taylor and the Welsh captain Ashley Williams.
“I’m looking forward to seeing them and getting one over on them on Sunday”, Collins said. “I spoke to Ashley Williams this week, and the rivalry’s started already. We’ve got a good record against them, so it should be a good game.”
He recognises that Swansea have been in “a bit of turmoil” after losing manager Garry Monk this week, but says it will make no difference to the outcome this weekend.
“I think it was a bit harsh him getting sacked”, Collins said. “I think he was doing a good job down there. Obviously the results weren’t quite going right, but they’re professional footballers – they’ll be up for any game.”
On a personal level, Collins is determined to keep his current place in the West Ham starting line-up, not least to improve his chances of featuring for Wales at next summer’s European Championships.
“We’ve got a tremendous squad at Wales”, he said. “A few years ago you’d half be expecting to play even if you weren’t playing club football, but the squad down there at the minute is the best Wales squad I’ve ever been involved in, so I’ve got to concentrate on playing well week-in, week-out for West Ham to hopefully go to France in the summer and play.
“Qualifying for the Euros with Wales is probably the biggest achievement of my career, being involved with the squad, and being the first team to qualify in 50-odd years, it’s a massive achievement. So obviously that’s a major part in my head to keep fit and stay in the West Ham team.”
As for the mouth-watering Group B match between Wales and England, the Hammers man said he and his Welsh team-mates knew it was coming.
“It was destined we were going to get to the tournament and get England”, Collins said. “It’s a massive game. I’m getting asked for tickets already, which is going to be fun leading up the game.”

The mini-rivalry between James Collins and his Swansea opponents may be alive this Sunday, but you sense they will all be singing from the same hymn-sheet next June.