Collins still stunned by his N-E exit
FANS' favourite Danny Collins returns to Sunderland for the first time tonight still stunned by the way his five year stay at the Stadium of Light came to an end. Collins travels to the North-East with Stoke City just months after being crowned the Black Cats supporters' player of the year for the second season in a row. Having started the season as Steve Bruce's captain at the Wearside outfit, Collins admits moving on was a difficult thing for him to do. But he felt he had little choice but to join Stoke in a £2.75m deal after Bruce had told him to talk over a move to the Britannia Stadium. He had mentioned the day before we were due to come down and play Stoke, said Collins, looking back on Sunderland's defeat on August 29 in Staffordshire. Steve Bruce said I won't play you in the game. I've had Tony Pulis on the phone asking about you again. If you want to have a chat to him after the game, you can do so'. It was strange to be on the bench against the team I was about to sign for. It was weird. I had a couple of jogs and I got a good reception off the Sunderland fans. At the same time I wanted to prove what I could do. I went back down the day after the game and spoke to Tony Pulis and then signed. Having spent five years at Sunderland, after signing from Chester in October 2004 for just £140,000, Collins never wanted to leave the North- East. It didn't hurt but it was disappointing in the way he went about it, just dropping it on me, with only two days left in the transfer window. After getting the captain's armband it was strange, he said. The 29-year-old's departure was supposed to herald the start of a brighter future at the Stadium of Light. While Bruce is still working on turning things around, Stoke head for the North-East tonight two points better off, although neither are clear of relegation trouble. It will be strange going back there on the away team bus, said Collins. I enjoyed my time at Sunderland although not the season when we finished last with 15 points. Going back will be emotional, Sunderland will always have a special place in my heart. I got experience of the Premier League. It's a great place to play football, they're a great set of fans and they love their football. I was honoured to be part of it and to achieve what I did. Two promotions from the Championship and picking up a couple of personal awards on top of that, I was pleased with my time up there.
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