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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 19 November, 2019

'I'd love to do it again' - The top Irish scorer in England eager for 2019 call-up

James Collins has been in stunning form for Luton Town this year, and was watched at the weekend by Irish assistant coach Robbie Keane.

James Collins celebrates a goal against Sunderland.
James Collins celebrates a goal against Sunderland.
Image: EMPICS Sport

THE TOP-SCORING Irish international in English football is hopeful of a first senior call-up in 2019, and was watched last weekend by Irish assistant manager Robbie Keane. 

James Collins, who last wore the green jersey at U21 level in 2012, has been in prolific form this season for League One leaders Luton Town, and hit his 19th goal of the season before the on-looking Keane against Wycombe on Saturday. 

It continues a remarkable recent spell for Collins, with his goal last Saturday his 15th in as many games.  

“I’m doing really well for my club now, the goals are flying in and I’m getting recognised a bit more”, Collins tells The42

“I am always confident in myself of scoring goals at any level, and if I am ever given that opportunity I will go in, give it my best and have a really good crack at it.”

Collins was born in England but qualifies for Ireland through his Mullingar-born mother.

When he was a teenager at Aston Villa, Collins was approached by Don Givens and offered the chance to declare for Ireland. He accepted and played under the late Sean McCaffrey for the Irish U19s before going on to work with Givens and Noel King at U21 level. Having played with the likes of Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady, his last cap came almost seven years ago.

In the years since that last cap, Collins has had skirmishes with controversy: in 2011, he and former Villa team-mate Barry Bannan were arrested when they crashed a Range Rover in the early hours of a Sunday morning (Collins was later released without charge), while five years later he was banned from all racecourses in Britain after being photographed urinating into a glass at the Cheltenham Festival. 

IMG_4464 A mural of James Collins under the main stand at Shrewsbury Town's ground, where he is the club's record goalscorer. Source: Luton Town

In an interview with The42 last year, Collins says he regrets both incidents and says they have been relegated to his past. 

Catching up with The42 this week, Collins maintains his desire to earn a belated senior cap.

“It is always a dream to play for Ireland. To represent the country where my mum was born, and to represent a country as great as Ireland, would be phenomenal. I’d love to do it again.” 

While he has endured a lengthy wait for his first senior recognition from Ireland, he understands why it has been so. 

“I’m realistic and I know you have to be playing at a certain level to have a chance of playing with Irish senior squad, and rightly so.

But over the years people from League One have been creeping into the side, like Ronan Curtis this year and others in the past. I know you have to be playing a certain level to get in but hopefully if I continue to play well then something might happen.

Former Irish international Kevin Kilbane, meanwhile, has told The42 that Mick McCarthy shouldn’t – and likely won’t – ignore players operating below the Championship or in the League of Ireland. 

Kilbane was first called up to the Irish squad by Mick McCarthy when he was playing with Preston in England’s third tier, and sees no reason why Collins wouldn’t be in contention for a call-up this year. 

“You can’t rule it out. Mick called in lads playing in the third-tier in his first spell, so I can’t see any reason why he can’t be called up. It’s then up to the player to make an impression on Mick.

Producing at international level is different. The mindset changes. You have that much hype around a game – that much read about yourself and others – that you have to have a different mental approach and you have to be that little bit stronger.

“Certain players can’t handle it and certain players can. Just because you’re playing League One football doesn’t mean you can’t handle it.

“That’s what Mick has to find out. Just because you are playing League One or League of Ireland doesn’t mean you aren’t up to it.”

Originally published at 17.55

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Gavin Cooney

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