Collins - I want to stay in the team

James Collins enjoyed one of the best moments of his career last week after he was part of the Wales squad that famously reached the Euro Finals next summer.

Wales have not been part of a major international tournament since 1958, but Collins and his team-mates have defied all the odds during the qualifying campaign and finished above Belgium and Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach the showpiece event in France.

The 32-year-old has become a fans favourite at the Boleyn Ground during his ten-year spell in east London and capped off a fine week when he was handed his first Premier League start against Crystal Palace.

Collins showed once again why he is rated so highly as he produced a superb display at the heart of the Hammers defence and played a major role in the 3-1 victory.

With Winston Reid ruled out of the big London derby against Chelsea on Saturday, Collins hopes he will get the chance to cement his place in the side and show Slaven Bilic why he should be a first-team regular.

Collins said: “I have been waiting a while and I knew when the chance came along I would have to perform well. I don't think I made too many mistakes and we came away with a victory.

“It is down to me now and I have got the shirt. That is the good thing being at West Ham at the moment in that we have got to perform well every week to stay in the team.

“We have got world class players waiting to step in if we don't perform well. That is the beauty of having a big squad and you need the competition behind you to keep you on your toes.

“If I get the chance to play against Chelsea on Saturday I know I will have to perform just as well or even better.

“No disrespect to anyone I have played with at West Ham but this is the best squad I have been part of. We can probably put out two teams at the moment and competition for places has helped.

“There is a good atmosphere around the training ground and everyone gets on. Confidence is high and if we can defend well, we know we have players upfront who create chances and score goals. It is a great place to be at the moment.”

With the Hammers already recording big away wins over Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City, Collins sees no reason why they cannot extend that impressive run and beat the Premier League Champions this weekend.

Collins added: “There is every chance we can beat them. Chelsea are struggling more than when they came to Upton Park last season.

“We have had a good week's training and we are all looking forward to a good game. I remember when we beat them 3-1 at home a couple of seasons ago and we have had some great games against them.”

Collins will be joining up with the Wales squad once again next month when they play Holland in a friendly at the Cardiff City Stadium and is already counting down the days to the big tournament in France next summer.

Hammers skipper Mark Noble recently joked that Collins is always pictured alongside Gareth Bale in the celebrations, but the 'Ginger Pele' says he is only jealous and would love to be following in his footsteps!

He joked: “I try and get in the photos! I have always been close with Gaz and he is probably the longest I have been playing with in the squad. I think Nobes is a bit jealous and I like to send him a few photos!

“When we qualified in Bosnia it was an amazing feeling and something I never thought I would experience. To be part of the team that has qualified for the first team is something special.

“It is a special moment for my whole family who have been following me all around Wales and watching me play since I was 15 all the way through to the senior squad.

“With the squad we have got there is no reason why we cannot go and compete against the bigger teams and do well. We have got world class players all over the pitch.”