James ‘Ginge’ Collins is a Hammers’ fan favourite, there’s no debating that.
Currently in his second spell in claret and blue, the Welsh international has shown the qualities over the years that endear him to West Ham fans, managers and owners alike.
But at 34 years old, he’s no spring chicken. Premier League football is unforgiving for defenders and as the Hammers add to their aging back-line, the question of whether Collins’ contract should be renewed in the summer has to be asked — and the answers are to be debated.
The defender has just shy of 200 league appearances for West Ham, something that is to be celebrated.
It also can’t be said that he didn’t put his all into most of those games. Yes, there have been mistakes made but he’s only human.
Before our game against Swansea, the ‘Ginger Pele’ had played in 11 games and all bar one he has put in 90 minutes.
Collins was forced off due to injury against West Brom back in September and subsequently missed 12 league games with an ankle problem. In terms of time in the treatment room, Collins seems to have picked up a pattern of suffering from one significant injury per season.
Some may say that’s not too bad for a West Ham defender, especially one who puts his body on the line so often.
In his second spell in east London, he has missed 33 league games through injury but in general he experiences a lengthy spell on the side-lines and once nursed back to health, manages to keep fi t and well. A bonus point in his favour.
As a defender, he is solid. The rapturous cheers from fans tell you that on a regular basis.
His defensive style is pretty cool and collected, but he certainly isn’t afraid to throw his 6’2â€ self in the way of danger.
Surely these are qualities that whoever is in charge at West Ham beyond the summer needs in his squad?
He has been involved in some heavy defeats over the years, three of which have involved conceding four at Anfield.
That doesn’t tell James Collins’ full Anfield history though; back in 2013 he was part of the team who managed a 0-0 draw in Liverpool, something unimaginable at the time.
Big Sam masterminded a defensive display and Collins was monumental. It really is days like that in the April sunshine that show his full potential.
It was as memorable a performance from a defender as I can remember.
They are the memories that would make renewing the 34-yearold’s contract a no brainer. His experience in big games can prove vital.
But then you say it again. Thirty-four. The aforementioned Liverpool game seems like yesterday but it’s not, it was five long years ago.
What a 29-yearold Collins could do wasn’t in doubt, but time catches up with a physical defender.
It always seem harsh to judge a player on age and, to be quite honest, my main argument for not handing Collins a contract extension is down to his advancing years. The Welshman has just come to the end of his contract agreement at a bad time, in reality.
David Moyes’ defensive options currently resemble the episode of Father Ted in which the ‘All-Priests 5-a-side Over 75’s Indoor Football Challenge Match’ takes place. Minus the priests, obviously. In February’s clash with Liverpool, the average age of West Ham’s starting line-up was 30.2 — the highest in the Premier League that day.
Patrice Evra, Pablo Zabaleta and James Collins were handed starts with a combined age of 103.
Of course, we can’t put the performance at Liverpool purely down to that fact. West Ham rarely show up in the red half of Merseyside.
But you have to wonder what a mixture of youth and experience could have achieved on that day.
In his favour, that’s something James Collins has been very good at over the years; helping young and new players settle in to their positions. Reece Burke and Collins playing in partnership was one of the most nurturing days in football I have seen.
Overall, the arguments for giving James Collins a new contract to sign are mostly emotional. The reasons against are argued more with the head.
Our ‘Ginger Pele’ has found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time; in an aging, struggling squad that needs fresh legs and inspiration.
There is no doubting that Collins would be a great squad player and an experienced option on the bench, but it’s difficult to see how his legs can continue at the pace West Ham will need if they are to start achieving the goals that the club has set in the next few years.
Having said all that, should the Hammers’ be playing Championship football within the next year or two, James Collins could be exactly what we need. What a quandary!