SWANSEA, WALES - NOVEMBER 27: Ashley Williams of Swansea (#2) shakes hands with fellow Wales international player James Collins of Aston Villa after the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Aston Villa at Liberty Stadium on November 27, 2011 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Courtesy of Mat Kendrick, we have ourselves the first piece of plausible-sounding transfer gossip of the summer; with talks on a new deal having stalled mid-season, West Ham boss Sam Allardyce is reportedly interested in bringing James Collins back to West Ham. The 28-year-old central defender will discuss his future with new manager Paul Lambert early next month when the players return to training, and given a somewhat spotty off-pitch disciplinary record and the glaring need for improvements along Villa's back line it would be little surprise to see Collins to be one of Villa players to make an exit before September.
Collins has had an up-and-down three years with Villa; at the best of times he was a part of one of the Premier League's most imposing back lines. At other times he's been a pretty major liability, never the single biggest problem with Aston Villa's defense but seldom covering himself in a great deal of glory. It's becoming increasingly apparent that, in most tactical systems, pairings such as Dunne and Collins just don't really work all that well; one slow and plodding but unquestionably hard bastard is fine, even an asset, but two of them can lead to some significant problems. Given the choice between Dunne and Collins to fill that role, I'm going to pick Dunne every time, even when taking the age difference into consideration.
While it's unlikely Collins will fetch an especially outlandish transfer fee (anything over £3 million would be a major surprise) his departure would ease some of the strain on the wage budget. And depending on how much stock you put into off-pitch behavior, this could easily be a "good riddance to bad rubbish" kind of situation. Assuming West Ham's interest is real (and I see little reason to believe otherwise) this seems like a bit of a no-brainer; the defense is in desperate need of a makeover, keeping the wage budget at a sustainable level is still a serious concern, players that can provide more are available for far less, and Collins hasn't done a great deal these past few seasons to endear himself to the Villa faithful (or a disciplinarian manager looking to make his mark on his new team.)
James Collins isn't a bad player and I think he's gotten a bit of a worse rap than he really deserves, but this just makes a lot of sense for everyone involved. He's pretty much the perfect fit for Allardyce's system and easily replaceable. If the Hammers are willing to pony up something that manages to rise above the level of insulting, I'd expect Collins to be on his way rather quickly.