Wales captured the hearts of football fans across Europe with their run to the semi-finals during the Euro 2016 tournament. Five years on, they’re back and once again ready to upset the applecart.
With the long-awaited return of fans in stadiums cheering on their home nation, former Wales international James Collins sat down with Ally McCoist, Joe Cole and Instagram sensation Munya Chawawa to talk ball for Just Eat’s Home Advantage video series.
Just Eat’s Home Advantage looks to bring the best of food and football together, as Munya orders a takeaway with some of the UK’s favourites footballers each week throughout the tournament.
While game time was limited for the centre back during 2016’s infamous run, the memories still burn brightly. “My best memories [of the Euros] are obviously as a player in 2016 with the Welsh team.”
It is hard to draw the parallels now – the current Wales squad is much younger and less experienced, despite the enduring presence of one Gareth Bale. “We went into it with no one really talking about us, really. We had almost a club team, and then obviously we just progressed and progressed. I didn’t play too much in the tournament and then got my chance to play in the Semi Final…Honestly, the best time in my life. Incredible memories.”
Collins is acutely aware of the challenges facing his nation this time around. “It’s a tough group for Wales. Wales has got a real young squad, not too much experience. And there are expectations there from 2016.”
However, the former Villa man remains bullish on Wales’ prospects, noting that the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey possess the offensive ability to win any game.
“It’s going to be tough, but I think we’ve got the players that can win games, game changers – Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, who if we defend well, we can definitely score goals against anyone. If our main players are in form, I can see us getting out of the group, maybe not making it to the semis, but getting out of the group to start with would be a great achievement. “
Away from international football, Collins fondly remembers West Ham’s great escape – fronted by the infamous Argentinian striker, Carlos Tevez – as one of his greatest sporting moments. “The best time for me was at West Ham. We had to go up to Old Trafford to win to stay in the premier league. TO go there and have the lads pulling in the same direction. It was an incredible night out after that. How we did it and what it meant to the club, it will stay with me forever.”
Catch each week’s full episode of Just Eat’s Home Advantage below…