Collins backs Gabbidon to bounce back
Wales defender James Collins believes Danny Gabbidon has the character to bounce back from his latest injury setback. Gabbidon has featured only sporadically for Wales in recent seasons due to repeated groin problems but had hoped to win his first cap since last November in Friday's opening Euro 2012 qualifier in Montenegro. That will now not happen after the 30-year-old pulled out of John Toshack's squad with a calf problem after the Hammers' Premier League defeat at Manchester United on Saturday. He joins Darcy Blake, Andrew Crofts and Brian Stock of Cardiff, Norwich and Doncaster respectively in missing the trip to Podgorica after suffering injury at the weekend. Collins said: "He has been injured a lot in the last couple of years and has had a tough time. "But to come back and be playing regularly in the Premier League is a great credit to him as a player and a man. "A lot of people don't realise what he went through. I was at West Ham with him and he was at the training ground until 9pm most days trying to get fit. "I am still very close to Danny and I speak to him all the time. It has been frustrating for him. "I think he played at the weekend and has picked up another little niggle which is unfortunate." Collins himself has had his own injury problems and is returning to the Wales fold after missing the last two internationals, although the first of those was due to the birth of his first child. In the absence of Collins and Gabbidon, Swansea's Ashley Williams and Craig Morgan, now of Preston, have taken the chance to shine and both are in firm contention to feature this week. Collins said: "They have been great. "I have known Craig a long time, I was in the Under-21s with him and he is a great player. "He has moved to Preston and is doing well up there. "Ash has been spot on. He has been great every game and I have certainly enjoyed playing alongside him." As well as missing Wales' 5-1 friendly thrashing of Luxembourg earlier this month, Collins also had to sit out Villa's first three games of the new season. He returned to action last week as managerless Villa were dumped out of the Europa League by Rapid Vienna and then featured in Sunday's uplifting Premier League defeat of Everton. Collins said: "I've played two games now and I'm raring to go. "I have always struggled with my calves and I came back pre-season and I didn't feel right. "I was out for longer than I wanted to be but I'm fit now and I can't wait." Wales have infamously not qualified for the finals of a major tournament since 1958. Yet with talented players such as Craig Bellamy and Gareth Bale on the flight this week - and others such as Aaron Ramsey and Jack Collison possibly returning before the end of the season - Collins believes they begin their latest campaign with genuine optimism. He said: "You want to be involved in the top tournaments and play in the top games. "The incentive is there, it is a fantastic tournament and we are going to have a right go. "If you look at the young players and the experience we have got now, we have got every chance. "Everyone was talking about the young players but all of the boys have probably got 20 caps now. "They are playing regular first-team football so it is a big campaign for us. "We have got some fantastic young players. They need to take on the mantle now and kick on." Wales will continue their Group G campaign with games against Bulgaria and Switzerland next month before an attention-grabbing home clash with England in March. Collins added: "A lot will be spoken about England but we will go into it the same as every game. "It is another qualifying match and we will have to get three points. "Hopefully we will get a bit of momentum going and get the fans behind us. "It will be great if we have the support of everyone back home. It is down to us now to make that happen."
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