James Collins: Everyone involved in West Ham United’s phenomenal season needs huge credit
James Collins has heaped praise on all connected with West Ham United after the Club secured a record 65 Premier League points in a ‘phenomenal’ 2020/21 campaign.
The former Hammers defender was back at London Stadium on the final day, speaking pitchside to the Club’s supporters before watching the Irons finish the season with a flourish last weekend, when Pablo Fornals’ double and Declan Rice’s late strike secured a 3-0 victory over Southampton and sixth place in the table.
That meant qualification for the UEFA Europa League for the first time in five years and direct passage to the group stages – reward that Collins feels is richly deserved.
The 37-year-old, who played 214 games in Claret & Blue across two spells with the Club, believes the foundations laid will ensure the team doesn’t fall below the standards they have set this year in future.
"It’s been unbelievable,” Collins said. “First things first it was incredible seeing the fans back in the stadium against Southampton. It’s such an amazing year the boys have had and it’s a real treat for the fans to come in for the last game and show their appreciation.
“The season was phenomenal. The Gaffer – and just speaking to Kev Nolan there – the staff, everyone involved needs huge credit because with the fans not here it was going to be tricky, but everyone connected to the football club deserves that credit.
“Too many times when I was here we’d have a good season then sort of slip the next season, but speaking to Nobes, this group of players and the manager won’t let that happen. So, it’s been an incredible year and next year is looking like an exciting one as well.
“You look at the stadium, the training ground and the board have also spent a lot of money in getting things right off the pitch. This should be the benchmark now, this season. This should be every year. When I was here certainly, too many years we weren’t looking up the table, but that looks like it’s changing and what a time it is to be a West Ham fan.”
With 19 years as a professional under his belt prior to retiring after a spell with Ipswich Town in 2019, Collins knows a thing or too about the importance of team spirit – and he says the bond which the current Hammers squad possess is obvious.
He continued: “I speak to Nobes really regularly and he keeps going on about how good the team spirit is, what a good set of lads they’ve got and you could see that from the outside in the way they’ve performed, the way they’re together – you see little videos coming out of them in the training ground.
“They’re tight-knit and that’s massive. To have the fans back in for the last game to show their appreciation was huge as well."
The 51-times capped Wales international loved being back at the Hammers’ home for the Southampton clash and was thrilled with the reception he was given, and now he cannot wait for when full crowds can return, especially with the lure of European football under the lights.
`'This football club deserves Europe,” he continued. “They’ve got the squad and international players who are used to playing in big games. Next year will be a great time for everyone.
“It’s an unbelievable stadium. Performances on the pitch and winning games makes everything better but this stadium and this football club deserves European football.
“I’m very lucky to have played for such an amazing football club. Every time I played for West Ham I tried my best and the fans seem to like it.”