Collins: 'We were shocking'
IN THESE troubled times, there are few things that you can rely on, WRITES DAVE EVANS. One of those things though was the central defensive partnership of internationals James Collins and Matty Upson, and so even more of a surprise than the way Middlesbro
IN THESE troubled times, there are few things that you can rely on, WRITES DAVE EVANS.
One of those things though was the central defensive partnership of internationals James Collins and Matty Upson, and so even more of a surprise than the way Middlesbrough played so impressively on Saturday, was the way that the West Ham pair didn't.
The pair's understanding at the back has been one of the most important parts of the team's recent success, so when passes went astray, mistakes were made and then a goal was conceded, the alarm bells were ringing.
The 25-year-old Welsh defender was quick to hold his hands up over that first half showing.
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"It was one of those games really," he admitted. "We knew we were shocking. The first half was terrible and the worst we've been for a long time, but luckily we got the late goal and we're still in the hat."
Both Collins and Upson were at fault for the Boro goal on 22 minutes as Gary O'Neil's cross evaded both defenders before finding Stewart Downing on the far post to nod home.
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But the Welshman may have an explanation for the unexpected mistakes.
"I'm not making excuses, but those balls really aren't the best," explained Collins, who has now amounted 27 caps with the Welsh national team.
"Matty looked as if he was going to head it clear and then before you know it, it was right on me, and I've missed it as well.
"It's just one of those things, but to concede a goal like that was disappointing."
Collins had more to say about the use of a different football for FA Cup matches: "I don't see the point in changing balls for the FA Cup from the ones that you play with week in week out.
"I'm not making excuses, it was bad defending and we should have cleared it."
Collins will be desperate for the Hammers to get through in their replay next Tuesday as he has the added incentive of having missed out on a place in West Ham's final team back in 2006.
The Welshman played the semi-final, but Anton Ferdinand and Danny Gabbidon got the nod for the final at the Millennium Stadium, leaving Collins as an unused substitute.
It is something he is keen to put right: "It was a fantastic time in my career and that will stay with me for a long time, those celebrations after the semi-final," reminisced the defender.
"Not being in the final was hard to take, so I'd like to go there and get as far as possible.
"Some of the boys haven't been to a final before, it's an amazing occasion and hopefully we can do it this year."
With Dean Ashton and Gabbidon on the long-term injured list, Collins is the only player left in the current squad who was at that cup final against Liverpool less than three years ago.
"I think I'm the only one in the squad that played in that semi-final," said Collins. "Players come and go and you sign new players, but I'm just delighted to still be involved now."
It hasn't been an easy West Ham career for the giant Welshman. Injuries as well as dropping down the pecking order, has meant just 58 appearances in three and a half years of football, and even this season Calum Davenport was preferred to him at the beginning of the campaign.
Collins, though, seems to have finally cemented his place in the starting line-up and he is certainly enjoying his football under manager Gianfranco Zola.
"Everyone knew Gianfranco's name was going to be linked with Chelsea," said Collins.
"But he's come here and done a fantastic job and all the boys are buzzing playing their football under him and long may that continue."
Collins and his defensive partner may have fallen below par on Saturday, but few would bet against them being back to their best and raring to go by the time that replay kicks off on Wednesday night at the Riverside.