King James puts body on the line for Hammers
15:00 21 December 2015
PA/Press Association Images
Welsh defender reflects on draw with Swansea City and earns praise from boss Slaven Bilic
With West Ham defender James Collins out of contract next summer and also looking for a place in the Wales team at France 2016, every match is like a job interview.
And if that is the case, then the 32-year-old has shown that he still has a big future for both.
He was at his very best at Swansea on Sunday, helping the team to a third consecutive clean sheet, but it was the way that he did it which stood out.
Tackle, block, header, another block, another header, he is always ready to put his body on the line for his team. It is old style defending and it is the sort of backs-to-the-wall stuff that the fans appreciate so much.
“We are defending well,” said Collins. “Sometimes it was a bit too desperate with last-ditch tackles and chucking yourself in front of the ball, which looks good, but is not what we want to do.
“As to the blocks, I don’t practice those in training,” he smiled. “It is just one of those things and I am stupid enough to jump in front of them.
“That is the way I was brought up, I am there to stop the ball going into the net anyway I can, you have go to do it.”
One such block almost proved costly for Collins and West Ham. Ki Seung-Yeung stole into the box and let fly and the Wales defender flung himself in front of it and it hit his hand.
The Swansea fans booed as Collins held his head, but as the West Ham man turned to show an egg-shaped lump on the back of his head, he insisted that he was not faking injury.
“I just couldn’t get out of the way of it,” he said. “The fans thought I was blagging it, but it certainly hit my hand, but it was not intentional.
“I was lying on the floor and yer man has slid in and kneed me in the back of the head. That is why I was down, I got a whack on the head for my trouble.”
That is what Collins is all about, he goes in where it hurts and will do anything for the team and when you have so many casualties, you need that sort of player in the trenches.
Manager Slaven Bilic certainly thinks so: “It is a privilege for me to have him in the team. He has experienced everything this season. He has been on the bench, sometimes he has come on for just two minutes.
“He has also played from the start many times and every time he was brilliant. I am talking about the games, the training and in the hotel, everything.
“It is simply great to have him and he is a great example, especially for the youngsters, of how they should behave and train – he is absolutely brilliant.”
It is Collins’ second spell at Upton Park and he lives and breathes the club. These are challenging times for West Ham and Collins is a vital part of coming through it.
“We are grinding out results and picking up points,” he said. “If this was three defeats and not three draws we would be talking a bit differently, but we are still seventh or eighth.
“It is not all doom and gloom by any stretch of the imagination, we have had a tremendous start.”
He’s right and though things are currently not going smoothly for the Hammers, Collins is there to make sure the team hold things together.