Collins believes he is a better player for Irish experience

James Collins believes he has improved as player due to his time away with the Ireland squad
James Collins believes he has improved as player due to his time away with the Ireland squad

Luton striker James Collins believes his call-ups for the Republic of Ireland national team have made him become a better player.

The 28-year-old made his debut during the 3-1 friendly win over Bulgaria in September, scoring his maiden international goal as well.

Since then he was won three more caps, two of them coming in Euro 2020 qualifying matches, plus a recent cameo in the victory over New Zealand.

Speaking about the impact it has had on his career, Collins said: “It’s definitely given me a bit of confidence.

“To be recognised by your country and get four caps under my belt now, with the quality that we’ve got in the squad, training with them, going away with them and seeing how they do things, it definitely showed me what I do want to achieve when you see what they achieve.

“I’ve really enjoy it, and I think it has probably made me a better player.”

On just how it has helped him, Collins, who had won caps for the Ireland U19 and U21 earlier in his career, continued: “To see how they go about their business day by day and how they train, and the quality they’ve got.

“They’ve got numerous caps and all played in the Premier League, so to be involved in that is a real honour."

Collins’ involvement in the Irish squad this season does mean that he is yet to have a period of rest for Luton, as while the rest of the squad have had three fortnights off, he has been travelling Europe with the national team.

However, the former Crawley forward wouldn’t have it any other way, saying: “For me I really like it.

“I’ve always loved training, day in day out, so going over there and training with those lads, is brilliant.

“I class myself as still quite young, so if you are a bit older it might catch up with you, but I’m really enjoying it and hope it continues.”

Collins’ last experience was one of ultimate disappointment, with Ireland missing out on automatic qualification due to a 1-1 draw with Denmark at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Although the forward didn’t get off the bench during the 90 minutes, he was still privileged to be involved on the night.

He said: “It was brilliant, apart from the result.

“We knew we needed to win it, the lads were gutted after, but I thought we played really well, the best we’ve played since I’ve been involved.

"We just came up against a very good side and just fell a little bit short.

“But to go away with your country is a real honour whether it be a friendly or a big game like that.”

With club-mate Simon Sluga’s Croatia already qualified for the finals, Collins is hoping that there will be two Luton players in attendance next year.

To do that, Ireland need to come through a play-off semi-final in Slovakia next March, with the winners then travelling to either Bosnia-Herzegovina or Northern Ireland in the final.

Collins added: “It would be amazing, but you need to keep doing well for your club first.

"I know what I need to do to stay in the squad and I just want to make sure I do that for Luton.

"I’ve got to keep playing well for Luton, stay in the team and keep scoring goals to get in that squad in March.

“If I’m doing that for Luton and scoring goals, then our form in the league will be a lot better as well.”