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Gingerbread Man: James Collins lifts West Ham through adversity

The beloved Ginger Pele has been vital lately for WHUFC

West Ham United v Everton - Premier League Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

In the word of famous gingers, James Collins’ name wouldn’t come close to getting the first mention on most people’s minds, like an Ed Sheeran or Emma Stone would.

But those two aren’t good enough for West Ham United. Collins, however, clearly still is.

In a vital time, off the back of a five-match losing streak, the beloved Welch centerback has been instrumental in the Hammers getting five big points in their last three games to likely avoid a final games’ relegation fight. With vice-captain Winston Reid’s latest injury bug arriving at the wrong time, Collins’ displays against Swansea City and Sunderland were strong and assured. And with Reid back available in the lineup vs Everton this past Saturday, the “Ginger Pele” was not relegated back to the bench. Rather, he shined further.

Faced with the massive dilemma of preventing Romelu Lukaku from scoring in his 10th straight match against West Ham, manager Slaven Bilic made the shrewd decision of playing three centerbacks against the Belgian boss. Although aligning with that defensive formation has produced a number of rocky moments for his team this season, Bilic had the foresight to see that Collins deserved to be included somehow in the lineup with Reid and Jose Fonte. And the long time Hammer rewarded him with another star performance in the team, producing only their second cleansheet of 2017.

Whether it was his perfect positioning with Reid and Fonte on Lukaku, or throwing his body on the line for significant blocks and tackles, Collins was nothing short of sensational vs Everton. Both he and Arthur Masuaku were considered the top two candidates for Man of the Match vs Everton, including myself and our poll on Twitter.

At age 33, Collins has one more year left on his Hammers contract. Whether it is Bilic or a new manager next season, the Cardiff City product thankfully will not be going away for the 2017-18 campaign.

That doesn’t mean that he should beat out Fonte as the main partner to Reid when the team reconvenes in July. But at the very least, Angelo Ogbonna and any other centerbacks on the books should know that it won’t be easily to dislodge Collins from being third on the depth chart. And with how he is playing as of late, who is to say that Collins wouldn’t merit more looks at returning to the starting lineup next season?

Certainly not Ed Sheeran or Emma Stone in the ginger power rankings.