Nathan Collins has had a very impressive month with Burnley.
Leixlip teenager Andrew Omobamidele captured the hearts of the nation with his superb defensive performances for the Boys in Green in 2021. Stephen Kenny’s side moved to a three-at-the-back formation this year to fully utilize the team’s fine defensive talent and results belateledy took an upswing. The atmosphere surrounding the Ireland team has improved since September and the future, it must be said, looks increasingly promising.
That optimism is aided when you have quality players like Nathan Collins coming through the ranks. Another Leixlip centre-half, Collins signed for Burnley from Stoke City in the Summer and has taken his opportunities with both hands. With an established partnership of Ben Mee and James Tarkowski marshalling the Claret’s defence for the past few seasons, it was always going to be difficult for the former Ireland U19 captain to start for Sean Dyche’s side immediately.
However, with Mee out injured in the last few weeks, Collins was promoted to the first team and has shone on the big stage. Prior to the international break, Collins kept a clean-sheet in a 0-0 draw Vs Norwich on the 2nd of October, and has since started against Manchester City, Southampton and Spurs. City defeated Burnley 2-0 but Collins’s performance was hailed as ‘brilliant’ by fans online, perhaps going down as his best display to date.
Search up Nathan Collins's name to see the massive impression he left on Burnley fans today against Manchester City ??⚽️?
— Kenny's Kids (@KennysKids) October 16, 2021
Nathan Collins comfortable in possession for Burnley
Ireland’s back three of Andrew Omobamidele, Shane Duffy and John Egan have all shown fine ability in possession of the football in recent matches. The current Ireland set-up demands defenders to enjoy getting on the ball and everyone from Dara O’Shea to Seamus Coleman has proven that Irish players do indeed have the skill levels required to execute the manager’s game-plan.
20-year-old Nathan Collins was the latest player tested in Kenny’s team, when he was brought on for his international debut against Qatar earlier this month. Collins had an easy evening at Lansdowne Road as Ireland ran out as comprehensive 4-0 winners, but up against world superstars like Harry Kane and Kevin De Bruyne in the following weeks, the Irish public had an opportunity to see the true value of the Kildare defender.
Burnley’s strength has always been their centre-back pairing of Mee and Tarkowski, but Collins has been so impressive that supporters believe he deserves to overtake one of the experienced defenders.
Despite standing at 6’4, Collins boasts of impressive composure on the ball and was unafraid to play his way out of tight spaces against Totenham Hostpur in Burnley’s most recent fixture. His dribbling ability on the ball looks to be a cut above the previous generation of centre-half and the Premier League side have already benefited from his technical assurance on more than one occasion.
How often have we seen Irish defenders hoof the ball away aimlessly in these sort of situations? With the likes of Collins and Omobamidele now bursting onto the scene, Ireland can look forward to a decade of cool heads at the back.
Nathan Collins defensively sound at Premier League level
“A defender’s job is to defend!” yells Roy Keane/Graeme Sounness/Richard Keys. Well breath a sigh of relief because Collins certainly loves the other side of the game as well. He had relatively big boots to fill on his first Premier League start against Norwich, but took his chance with aplomb.
The centre-back has been lauded as a top prospect for some years now and became Stoke City’s youngest ever captain at the age of eighteen in 2019. In fact, Collins’s performances for the Potters were so encouraging that Darren Fletcher decided to reccomended him to the Manchester United board on more than one occasion and we’re now beginning to see why.
Nathan Collins (20, CB) today for Burnley Vs Norwich ??⚽️?
⏱ 90 minutes played
? One clean sheet
? 78% pass success rate
? Three accurate long balls
⚔ Six duals won
— Kenny's Kids (@KennysKids) October 2, 2021
His accomplished Premier League debut against Norwich wouldn’t have come as a surprise to Stoke fans. For the rest of us however, it was fantastic to see another Irish talent prove themselves in the deep end that is the English top flight. A clean sheet, three accurate long balls and 78% passing success is nothing to be sniffed at.
Collins’s first away Premier League start came against none other than Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City where he won the most duals of any player (9), including three tackles, two headed clearances and four interceptions. The Ireland youngster also won two free-kicks for his side and recovered possession seven times.
Collins’s positioning, awareness and athleticism to win the ball back for his side and start attacks is hugely impressive. On many occasions against the reigning champions, Collins found good starting positions that allowed him to obstruct attackers and either outmuscle them or intercept their passes. For a man with the frame of Shane Duffy, Collins is quick over the ground and backs himself to recover and jockey opponents away from danger.
Against City, the Kildare native was challenged to halt the greatest attacking footballers in the world. Burnley have suffered severe beatings against the European giants on numerous occasions, but Collins’s elite reading of the game added an athletic and intelligent defensive cover this time around. You can’t help but feel the way he reads danger and covers the grass is ready-made for the current Ireland international team.
Nathan Collins has a big Ireland future ahead of him
Ireland have always been especially strong defensively. That trend looks set to continue – potentially even to a higher level than usual. As the experienced Shane Duffy and John Egan lead Ireland’s efforts; Dara O’Shea, Darragh Lenihan, Mark McGuinness and Jimmy Dunne impress at Championship level, and the prodigious Leixlip duo of Omobamidele and Collins go from strength to strength at the same time, you wouldn’t blame Stephen Kenny for being so optimistic about his team’s defensive capabilities.
It’s hard to imagine the management breaking up the Egan-Duffy-Omobamidele combination for the upcoming qualifiers against Portugal and Luxembourg, but you suspect once Collins gets his chance he won’t be losing that jersey any time soon.
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