Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Collins Is Ready for His Second Chance

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Collins Is Ready for His Second Chance

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Gilder

The final whistle had blown almost an hour earlier. But, as Danny Collins re-emerged in his club suit, his washbag under his left arm and an expression of obvious satisfaction on his face, several pockets of red-and-white-shirted supporters were still dotted around Kenilworth Road.

His subsequent interview on the pitchside was punctuated by congratulatory calls, by those wishing well, by those acknowledging achievement.

The contrast with the corresponding point in 2006 could not have been more stark. If there is one player who symbolises red-and-white rehabilitation more than any other, it is he.

Those who have felt less popular than the 26-year-old did in the immediate aftermath of the club's humiliating relegation last summer must be small in number. None had performed during a season that imploded in a devastating manner, yet Collins became the scapegoat for failure. There were those who considered a player who cost just pounds 140,000 to be symptomatic of the deficiencies that had undermined Sunderland's abortive return to the top flight. Indicative of Mick McCarthy's penchant for a bargain, the defender's days seemed numbered. To those on the outside, at least, he did not appear a player with what it takes to find favour under Roy Keane's regime.

Such assumptions were mistaken, as underlined by the statistics that reveal that captain Dean Whitehead was alone in making more appearances as the Black Cats swept to the Championship title. Having played 38 times in the league ( all but two of those games from the start ( the Welsh international's importance to the Wearside cause is beyond underestimation.

"I'm just pleased to have proved myself in Roy Keane's team this season ( that's the pleasing thing for me after the disappointment of last season," said a player whose appearance record is even more impressive when it is considered that he has played most of his matches under the Irishman at left-back, a position a defender more comfortable in his preferred central role does not favour.

"It feels different from a personal point of view this time. I've played 40 games (including cup appearances) so I feel more that I'm part of the fittings here than I did when we went up in 2005 (when he played just 14 times in the league following his arrival from Chester). It's a great feeling, something I'll never forget. It was fantastic on the pitch (as Sunderland thrashed Luton 5-0 to win the Championship title), and it was a great feeling to be in the dressing room with the Champagne corks popping everywhere. The scenes (on the terraces) were amazing. We will all remember this, there's no doubt about that."

What preceded Sunderland's remarkable rebirth was, of course, so forgettable. …

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