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.”