Collins backs Gabbidon to bounce back

Gabbidon has featured only sporadically for Wales in recent seasons
due to repeated groin problems but had hoped to win his first cap
since last November in Friday’s opening Euro 2012 qualifier in
Montenegro. That will now not happen after the 30-year-old pulled
out of John Toshack’s squad with a calf problem after the Hammers’
Premier League defeat at Manchester United on Saturday. He joins
Darcy Blake, Andrew Crofts and Brian Stock of Cardiff, Norwich and
Doncaster respectively in missing the trip to Podgorica after
suffering injury at the weekend. Collins said: “He has been injured
a lot in the last couple of years and has had a tough time. “But to
come back and be playing regularly in the Premier League is a great
credit to him as a player and a man. “A lot of people don’t realise
what he went through. I was at West Ham with him and he was at the
training ground until 9pm most days trying to get fit. “I am still
very close to Danny and I speak to him all the time. It has been
frustrating for him. “I think he played at the weekend and has
picked up another little niggle which is unfortunate.” Collins
himself has had his own injury problems and is returning to the
Wales fold after missing the last two internationals, although the
first of those was due to the birth of his first child. In the
absence of Collins and Gabbidon, Swansea’s Ashley Williams and
Craig Morgan, now of Preston, have taken the chance to shine and
both are in firm contention to feature this week. Collins said:
“They have been great. “I have known Craig a long time, I was in
the Under-21s with him and he is a great player. “He has moved to
Preston and is doing well up there. “Ash has been spot on. He has
been great every game and I have certainly enjoyed playing
alongside him.” As well as missing Wales’ 5-1 friendly thrashing of
Luxembourg earlier this month, Collins also had to sit out Villa’s
first three games of the new season. He returned to action last
week as managerless Villa were dumped out of the Europa League by
Rapid Vienna and then featured in Sunday’s uplifting Premier League
defeat of Everton. Collins said: “I’ve played two games now and I’m
raring to go. “I have always struggled with my calves and I came
back pre-season and I didn’t feel right. “I was out for longer than
I wanted to be but I’m fit now and I can’t wait.” Wales have
infamously not qualified for the finals of a major tournament since
1958. Yet with talented players such as Craig Bellamy and Gareth
Bale on the flight this week – and others such as Aaron Ramsey and
Jack Collison possibly returning before the end of the season –
Collins believes they begin their latest campaign with genuine
optimism. He said: “You want to be involved in the top tournaments
and play in the top games. “The incentive is there, it is a
fantastic tournament and we are going to have a right go. “If you
look at the young players and the experience we have got now, we
have got every chance. “Everyone was talking about the young
players but all of the boys have probably got 20 caps now. “They
are playing regular first-team football so it is a big campaign for
us. “We have got some fantastic young players. They need to take on
the mantle now and kick on.” Wales will continue their Group G
campaign with games against Bulgaria and Switzerland next month
before an attention-grabbing home clash with England in March.
Collins added: “A lot will be spoken about England but we will go
into it the same as every game. “It is another qualifying match and
we will have to get three points. “Hopefully we will get a bit of
momentum going and get the fans behind us. “It will be great if we
have the support of everyone back home. It is down to us now to
make that happen.”