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ireland's 'coll' Burnley's Nathan Collins comes from a family steeped in football at home and abroad

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Nathan Collins during a training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Nathan Collins during a training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Nathan Collins during a training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The glass-doored lift situated in the centre of the 24-storey Baku Hilton, the base for the Ireland team on their stay in Azerbaijan, offers guests a scenic view of the Caspian Sea as it rises rapidly.

Nathan Collins looks to be on a trajectory to spend his football career in five-star company but the youngster doesn’t speak like an individual that will be distracted on his way up.

The fact he was handed the captain’s armband at Stoke as an 18-year-old highlighted the trust they had in his personality and temperament.

With vaccine matters causing a bit of a stir this week, the FAI knew they needed a mature face to go in front of the press yesterday.

It’s rare that an uncapped player fits the bill but Collins is comfortable speaking and we’ll be hearing a lot more from him in the coming years, even if it’s more likely that his senior debut will come in the friendly against Qatar next Tuesday.

He does have a case for involvement against Azerbaijan, seeing as he’s in the small contingent of travellers with Premier League football under his belt this term. Ben Mee’s injury misfortune opened the door for Collins to start and star for Burnley in a scoreless draw with Norwich, where the centre-half won praise for his display.

His fellow Leixlip man Andrew Omobamidele was an unused sub there but is well placed to be picked by Stephen Kenny tomorrow after his exploits last month – and Collins is fine with that. But it’s only a matter of time before Collins steps up.

“He was one of the best players on the pitch in both games he played so I can’t really complain about anything,” Collins said,

“I’ve known him for years now so I’m buzzing for him. We weren’t really on the same estate but I knew all about him growing up. I was mates with his mates. We’re from Leixlip, it’s a small place so everyone knows everyone.”

Collins is in familiar company entering the Ireland squad. He has senior support with James McClean, a former Stoke team-mate. Jason Knight was in the same DDSL group coached by Stephen Rice, who is now on Stephen Kenny’s staff.

Collins, Knight, Adam Idah and Troy Parrott were all part of the Irish U-17 team that was controversially knocked out of the Euros by Holland back in 2018 when ’keeper Jimmy Corcoran – who was ahead of Gavin Bazunu at that juncture – got red-carded during the penalty shoot-out. The reunion at senior level is encouraging.

“We always talk about it as well, those nights. To have that group, a strong group, and to have that here now is a real big thing,” he replies, before changing tone to provide a reminder of why he was their skipper.

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“I hope we don’t just settle at this. I want to push on and they want to push on. It’s a really strong age group.

“It’s a young gang coming through and people want to see us do well but the gaffer has come in and brought his way in and his whole philosophy, and I think that is an attraction as well.”

Collins has been surrounded by football people his whole life. It has been well documented that his father, David, was an Irish youth captain who was at Liverpool when they won the league in 1990 but saw injury crush his dreams.

Uncle Eamonn is well known over the water on account of a lower league career and agency work.

Nathan’s grandfather won an FAI Cup with Transport and his older brother Josh is an experienced League of Ireland operator.

It runs through the blood, yet he is now entering territory that evaded the others.

“When I was younger I didn’t really know a lot about football or watch it, I just loved playing it.

“Obviously, I knew my cousin Mikey, he played for Liverpool at the time, so he was the only one I really knew about.

“But as I got older and moved to England people would come up to me (to talk about David or Eamonn) and talk about my family. Now I realise what a big thing it is and what a football family I have.

“Even if he didn’t play in the top flight, my Dad is the main person I’d go to and ask questions.

“I bounce things off him about the game. He has always told me it’s a short career and you have to take everything while you can and enjoy it at this moment.”

David was up for a 5am flight last Saturday morning so he didn’t miss out on the Premier League milestone. There will be more to come.

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