If you’re a no-nonsense centre-back looking to impose an uncompromising defensive style, you would do well to impress West Ham United fans’ favourite James Collins.
The former Hammers defender, who played 214 games for the Club across two spells in east London and earned the affectionate nickname of ‘The Ginger Pele’ from the Claret & Blue faithful, has been particularly impressed by fellow centre-back Craig Dawson this season.
The duo came up against one another on five occasions whilst Collins was with the Irons and Dawson was at West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League, and the Welshman admits that what he saw of his opposite number left him impressed on those occasions.
Since then, Dawson has also gone on to sport the Claret & Blue, and Collins feels his performances over the 2021/22 season – in which Dawson played 50 times for the Hammers in all competitions, being named in the UEFA Europa League Team of the Tournament – showed what the defender was all about.
Collins told whufc.com: “I think Declan Rice always stands out, but I’ve said it in interviews before: I think Craig Dawson has been unbelievable for us.
“It surprised me when he came to West Ham, but I knew Craig as a player. I played against him and I always thought he was a top drawer player.
“To come in and play the way he has done, never letting the team down, scoring crucial goals and defending for his life… he’s been brilliant.
“I think Dawson and Dec have been brilliant, as all the boys have been this year. It’s been a great season for the Club.”
During Collins’ two spells with West Ham, the former defender starred in sides which reached the FA Cup Final in 2005/06 and set a then Club-record Premier League points tally in 2015/16 (since surpassed in 2020/21).
But the centre-back feels this group, and manager David Moyes, is a particularly special one.
Collins reflected on 2021/22: “I think you’ve got to look back and say that it was a great season.
“I know obviously going out in the semi-final of the Europa League was a disappointment in the end, after getting so far, but I think if you look at the size of the squad and the way that we played, I think it’s been a very successful season, and one which David Moyes and the players can build on.
“The 3-0 win against Olmpique Lyonnais [in the Europa League quarter-finals] was the best result of the season for me.
“I spoke to Nobes [Mark Noble] quite a bit as the season drew to a close because he was retiring, and I think that game stood out for everyone. To go to a big European side and go and perform the way that we did to get the win was massive - but there were loads of big results.
“Now that I’ve stopped playing, I’m a West Ham fan – so this season has been one hell of a ride! Hopefully we can do it again next year.”