Luton striker labels first start for Ireland as a 'massive honour'

Hatters striker James Collins
Hatters striker James Collins

Town striker James Collins declared it a 'massive honour' to earn his first start for the Republic of Ireland during their Euro 2020 qualifier draw against Georgia on Saturday.

Although the match finished goalless, with Collins never given a clear opportunity to add to the goal he scored when coming off the bench against Bulgaria last month, he was thrilled to get the nod to replaced injured frontman David McGoldrick in such an important fixture.

Speaking to the Irish Sun, Collins said: "It’s a massive honour for me. I knew about it on Thursday and it’s probably the biggest moment of my career.

“The quality of players you are playing against and the quality of players you are playing with, it’s a massive stage but it is what I have always wanted.

“It is what I play football for, to play at the highest level I can and I really enjoyed it.

“The gaffer has shown faith in me. I know I owe him a lot but I really enjoyed my debut.

"We knew that they are good with the ball and that they were going to keep it for periods of time.

“It’s a tough place to come, they are a good side and I think a lot of people don’t give them enough credit for being a good side.

“Even though we have come here wanting to win, a draw is not the worst result in the world and the lads have put in a great shift.

“I think the draw was probably fair.”

Collins was left satisfied with his own personal performance, although knows that it is a different ball-game on the international stage than what he has grown up with in England.

He continued: “I didn’t manage to get a chance to score but, listen, playing out there on your own as a striker, you have to work for the team and I was always going to do that because I didn’t want to let anyone down.

“I think the referees are quite soft in European (games), aren’t they?

“That’s how I like to play, to put myself about and make it tough for defenders, get in the box and score goals.

“I managed to do the first bit but the goal didn’t come.

“But it’s not all about that, it’s about coming here and putting in a performance and I think we’ve done that."

Ireland now head to Switzerland for their next Group D game tomorrow evening, looking for the victory that will ensure automatic qualification.

Collins added: "That’s what the lads want. It’s what we look forward to.

“You can’t qualify for the Euros by drawing games and we want to keep getting points.

“We know that the next three points will be massive.

“We go to Geneva aiming to win the game.

"Nothing changes, we go into every game wanting to win. Nothing changes, we want to go and win.”