Could anyone ever claim faultless record or naive judgement yet still stand tall with arrogant eyes and shrouded souls? Would anyone venture to lead the line but fail in retreat and run from the hoards with a ravenous glare? Would any of us leave a fellow man, a long serving hero and a falling star still fighting to stay in hurly burly?
I would be so bold to venture that most would not and certainly most West Ham United fans would wilfully surround our ‘Ginger Pele’ with defensive shields to thwart any advances from suitors, whether foreign or domestic. Out would come the long spears with determined fervour to oppose any emperor who would deem fit to cast aside and set asunder with a downward pointing thumb.
James Collins has been propping up our defences since 2005, albeit with a sabbatical in the middle with a term at Aston Villa. He vowed he allegiance to our cause and we embraced him as our gladiatorial brother. His move away from 2009-2012 was meant to further his dreams and cement his passions, but that only left him bereft and yearning for a return home. The wayward son would come back to rapturous applause and heartfelt cheers…and he has not looked back since.
However, time waits for no playing man and at 34 years old, Collins is certainly one of the senior statesmen at the club and is part of a defensive boy band that have all grown up as seniors to the junior ball. Zabaletta, Evra and Fonte have all pushed into maturing 30’s whilst Reid & Ogbonna have only a few months before joining their post thirty club.
Since Collins’s reintroduction after his recovery from injury, he has featured heavily in a defence that has grown in stature whilst still missing key members. Fonte has been vacant for a significant period but is set to return shortly, whilst Reid was largely overplayed, due to necessity and staff shortages, and whilst not 100% fit either. This not only affected his performances but also our impression of him in a flapping defence.
Collins had been relegated to bit part appearances, substitutions and starting positions when all others could not present themselves fit. Many a fan would correctly be concerned whether a bit part, ageing player would have the capability to perform at the current Premier League…but he has proved himself over and over again to be the man at the back whom we could always depend upon.
He does not strike the pose of a modern defender, who’s good on his feet to drive forward as well as being dominating in the air, however he has the experience to adopt good positions and will do the simple tasks really well…uncompromising, unflinching and unabashed!
Whilst Reid has been on the recovery table, he has deputised with determined affect and has delivered some solid and notable performances…even gaining my man of the match on a couple of occasions too. However, there continues to be a stalemate when it comes to his contract which expires at the end of the season and there was even interest from Brighton in the January transfer window to secure his services.
It has become a daily chore to urge West Ham to extend his contract for a minimum of another year and whilst we wait with bated breath for a resolution, we have to remind ourselves of what Collins brings to the party and what is missing when he is a no show.
Of course, no man is an island and no man should throw rocks in any glasshouses…believe me I’ve tried and it’s just not worth the lacerations from flying shards of glass. When he returned, he immediately presented himself in the central defensive area with a force of, “Thou Shall Not Pass!” and a posture of General Maximus Decimus Meridius…a gladiator to stand fast against any other.
This uncompromising and uncomplicated display reminded the fanbase what they had been missing and why he had become such a favourite over the years. Few players fail to cross the playing field confines and are exalted into the hearts and minds of a West Ham crowd. But add in some steely determination, passion for the club, decent performances and a never die attitude regardless of personal talents…then a player is within reach of club legendary status…and Collins fits that bill quite neatly indeed.
Similarly to Noble, it is noticeable that our confidence and performances have dropped when either do not play but fans also latch onto every good performance, hoping, praying and expecting a repeat show every week. Whilst Collins is a standout performer on his day, he together with his fellow teammates can suffer the embarrassment of below par displays and defeats but seldom would anyone accuse him of a lacklustre effort.
So we are at the ‘Crossroads’ with Collins’s future…will he stay…will he be forced to leave or snatched before he is pushed? When Ralph Macchio stood at said intersection with blues guitar in hand, he was faced with demonic rock guitars..ready to duel and ready to lead him astray. Collins is at the same juncture…will he be able to battle, will he be delivered from the blues of the contractual woes and can he fend off the rock star demons primed to steal away our fortunes?
In a simple twist of fate, Collins has been able to defend his corner over the last few weeks due to the growing infirmity within the rear ranks, but he has also excelled in Moyes’s defensive formations…albeit subject to occasional errors as in the Brighton game. The offer remains on the table and the questions still hang in the air. When Fonte and Reid return…will he be surplus to our immediate requirements and are they better options for our team going forward?
Collins has a wealth of experience both at domestic and at international level with Wales. He can be relied upon to step into the fray at any given moment and deliver a solid and impassioned performance that will steady the nerves of any Hammers fan. At the very minimum he should be given a one year extension to his existing contract with some kind of West Ham coaching or ambassadorial pathway for the future, for his experience and talents will be invaluable for our future stars.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing!” – Edmund Burke. The greatest illustration of apathy would be for the club to let Collins go without so much – a please don’t go! There have been so many errors made in successive transfer windows, but an absolute clanger would see Collins leave West Ham when we are in such need of his experience, composure and commitment to the cause. He wants to stay, he wants to play and others will learn from him just immersing themselves in his ambience. If there was ever a doubt, the manager and owners need look no further back than his excellent display at the weekend against Watford, whom together with Ogbonna were solid as a rock at the back.