Coleman Backs Collins To Step Up Against Belgium

Chris Coleman insists Wales can cope if they need to replace skipper Ashley Williams with James Collins for their Euro 2016 quarter-final showdown with Belgium.

Williams remains a doubt after injuring his shoulder in the victory over Northern Ireland and scans undergone by the Swansea City centre-back have yet to prove conclusive.

If he is ruled out then Coleman will turn to Collins with the manager confident the West Ham player can deal with the attacking talent the Belgians have in their armoury.

“I wouldn’t have any worries,” said the Wales boss. “James is that type of character and he’s experienced as well.

“He is certainly not lacking in confidence as a man. He would relish it.

“I wouldn’t change the whole team round if I am honest with you. If you look at how we play, we play a certain way for a reason. Unless something drastic happens I wouldn’t change the whole team around.”

Former international Danny Gabbidon – who has been following the squad as part of TalkSport’s radio commentary team and a former defensive partner of Collins for Wales, West Ham and Cardiff City – has no doubts his old teammate is up to the task.

It looked as if Collins’ international career was drawing to a close a couple of years ago, but the 32-year-old has been revitalised under Slaven Billic and his form in 27 matches for the Hammers last season was arguably the most consistent of his career.

Gabbidon said: “He’s a bit more of a defender now. When I played with him at Cardiff he was a lot more of a ball-playing defender.

“He’d try to hit these long cross-field passes but he’s certainly reined that in now. He sticks more to the defending and gives the ball to the players who can do that.

“Sometimes he was liable to pick up the odd red card but I think he’s matured as a player over time. He makes a lot less mistakes now and he’s much more of a solid defender.

“He knows his limits and I think that’s stood him in good stead. That’s what it’s all about – the more games you play the more experience you get.

“You adapt your game and you always try to improve. It’s been great watching him his career and how he’s progressed.”

“That’s a factor in this squad – the quality in depth is probably the best we’ve had in a long time.”

Coleman insists Belgium will be firm favourites for Friday’s clash in Lille, even though Wales won their last encounter, 1-0, last year in the qualification campaign.

“People will expect Belgium to win,” Coleman said. “They had some criticism coming into the tournament and they lost the first game.

“But if you have a squad with that quality then any team you play against, apart from maybe two of three, Belgium are favourites.

“We have dealt with it before and we will be up against it. We have had to face that quality as they are a top team. We will be the underdogs, but we won’t be fearing Belgium. When teams go for us and play open, we can do a lot of damage.”


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