After the adulation of his teammates ceased, James Collins stood facing the Irish fans, arms out wide. It was the first time The Aviva Faithful had the pleasure of witnessing the trademark celebration that has delighted the Kenilworth Road churchgoers for more than two seasons. It’s a messiah-like stance by a striker who has steadily made a name for himself in a Luton Town team that has back to back promotions to their name. But as Monty Python would say “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”. Or at least was in the past.
At 28 years old it would be difficult to say James Collins is a rising star, but a call up to the Irish squad and a debut capped with a goal will only add to his growing reputation as one of, if not, the best strikers outside the Premier League. However, a few bad life choices could have halted this rise as Collins acted recklessly in his younger days. While at Aston Villa in 2011 he was arrested, along with a teammate, for hitting the central reservation of the M1 in Nottinghamshire. While he would not face any charges for the accident his career stalled afterward, first being loaned out to Burton Albion before ultimately being sold to League Two Shrewsbury Town months later.
After a spell with Swindon and Hibernian, Collins rejoined The Shrews in the 2014/15 season, ultimately helping them win promotion from League Two. He failed, however, to hold down a regular place the following season and was loaned out to Northampton Town where he was involved in another incident during the Cheltenham Festival. The striker was pictured, along with another player, urinating in a glass before pouring it off a balcony. He apologized and was rightly fined, but the biggest eye-opener came at the end of the season when he was released by Shrewsbury.
Again he found himself in League Two, the fourth tier of soccer in England. However, Collins came in hungry and determined to prove people wrong, hitting 20 goals in a season for the first time in his career, despite Crawley Town struggling to a 19th place finish. This earned him a move to a team on the rise, Luton Town, where he has scored 48 goals in 99 games and helped his team win back to back promotions that see him now plying his trade in the second tier of English soccer, The EFL Championship.
Not only has he been a huge part of a team effort at Luton, but since the 1st of January this year only two players in England have scored more league goals. He’s tied with legendary Man City striker Sergio Aguero with 18 and only behind Teemu Pukki of Norwich and James Norwood of Ipswich Town. So while the International debut was a success you have to wonder why Ireland manager Mick McCarthy waited until a meaningless friendly to finally give Collins his overdue debut. It’s not like Ireland are scoring goals for fun. In the previous 10 games before the Bulgaria friendly, they had only scored 8 goals. Collins has scored 6 alone in Luton’s previous 10 league games and the man keeping him out of the Irish team, David McGoldrick, has yet to score for his team this season.
Whatever the reason behind the delay in getting Collins to the international stage, the hope now must be that he continues in this form for both Luton and Ireland, if given the chance, and leads the Boys in Green to the 2020 Euros. You also have to hope that McCarthy has finally realized David McGoldrick is not the answer, no matter what the question is.