James Collins has been earmarked as a future Wales captain following his £5million transfer deadline day move to Aston Villa.
Wales boss John Toshack believes that Collins' departure from West Ham - who had a glut of central defenders - could leave the way open for Danny Gabbidon to get more top-flight matches. Gabbidon has been out with injury for almost two years, while Collins was sold by the Hammers to ease their financial pressures.
The former Cardiff colleagues will form Wales' central defence against Russia next Wednesday in a FIFA World Cup™ qualifier at Cardiff's Millennium stadium. Toshack named his squad yesterday for the Russia game, and recalled senior men Craig Bellamy, Jason Koumas - now doubtful with a hamstring injury - and Boaz Myhill. Uncapped midfielder Brian Stock was also back in the squad.
Of Collins' move to the West Midlands, Toshack said: "Collins is a future Wales captain. I still feel there are some things in his game that he can improve on. But he has missed too many games for us. He has been out for long spells on more than one occasion.
"He also missed a lot of games for West Ham over the years. But he has gone to a big club at Aston Villa, Martin O'Neill has shown confidence in him and paid good money. So hopefully we will now benefit from his move. And it might well open the door for Danny Gabbidon at West Ham to play a lot more matches after his bad injury problems."
Collins is a future Wales captain... But he has missed too many games
for us. He has been out for long spells on more than one occasion.
Toshack concedes that he will probably be without Jack Collison and Simon Church against the Russians, the pair will be attending their respective fathers' funerals next week. And Koumas' comeback also looks doubtful. Toshack said: "Jason has an injury, although there is a tendency to think 'here we go again' with him because he misses so many games. But this is a worrying injury, we have had reports from Wigan to that effect.
"I have always stood by Jason Koumas. The last time he was with us he wasn't happy with his form or fitness. He needed to go away and sort himself out. He needed to get over the injuries, particularly a hamstring problem, and have a good pre-season and play a few matches. That is what he has done, and I'm delighted. But he missed the last game at Everton with a recurrence of his hamstring, so already he is a doubt for Wednesday."
Bellamy, who embarrassingly missed the friendly last month in Montenegro following a mix-up over his availability, will be skipper on Wednesday. Toshack said: "Craig will he OK this time. There was some misunderstanding the last time when he did not turn up for the Montenegro game.
"It should not have happened. We should not be getting onto the coach to go to the airport for the match and we haven't heard from him and cannot get in touch with anyone. We now know the reason, and hopefully that does not happen again. But do not forget that day, Carl Fletcher managed to speak to me personally about his retirement.
"Phil Brown (Hull manager) got hold of me to tell me Boaz Myhill was unfit and David Vaughan phoned me about the problems his wife was having with her pregnancy. They all got hold of me. But we have received an explanation and an apology from Manchester City."