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500th appearance James Collins hopes he has done enough to change Stephen Kenny's opinion ahead of landmark game

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Ireland striker James Collins, centre, is congratulated by team-mates James McClean, behind, and Enda Stevens, after scoring his side's third goal during friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Bulgaria at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Ireland striker James Collins, centre, is congratulated by team-mates James McClean, behind, and Enda Stevens, after scoring his side's third goal during friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Bulgaria at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Ireland striker James Collins, centre, is congratulated by team-mates James McClean, behind, and Enda Stevens, after scoring his side's third goal during friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Bulgaria at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Luton striker James Collins is hoping he has shifted the opinion of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny after his international career stalled last year.

Collins is set to play his 500th career game as Luton travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday.

And he is hoping his omission from Kenny's first squads as Ireland manager is behind him, as he aims to force his way into a misfiring team that has failed to score in the last seven international matches.

"I felt like I was doing well under Mick McCarthy and then the new manager came in and he had different ideas," Collins told the Sunday World.

"You have to accept that and try to change his mind after I started the season well for Luton in the Championship, I got my chance to play for Ireland again in November.

Involved

"Now I'm looking forward to the next internationals and hopefully having a chance to be involved in March."

Coventry-born Collins, 30, scored his first international goal against Bulgaria at the Aviva Stadium in September 2019, yet Kenny's eagerness to play a passing brand of football may have contributed to his omission from Kenny's initial squads.

However, the striker who fired a hat-trick for Luton in their win against Preston last month should not be ignored by a manager who will be under huge pressure to produce results in the next round of international matches.

Kenny will get a chance to see Collins against top tier opposition today, with Chelsea boss Frank Lampard liable to be ousted from his position if his side lose against the Hatters.

With all the pressure on Chelsea, Collins suggests this is a golden chance for Luton.

"We have to say this is just another game of football, but it obviously a big one and we will be coming up against some high-quality players," continued Collins.

"We know mistakes will be punished against a top quality Chelsea side, but we are not going there to make up the numbers. We think we can get into the next round.

"They have a team that are not on to form, but they might make some changes and the players they will put out will be desperate to impress to try and get into their Premier League team."

Collins has come a long way in his career after Martin O'Neill told him he was unlikely to get into his Aston Villa team a decade ago.

Spells with Shrewsbury, Swindon, Hibernian and Crawley preceded his move to Luton in 2017.

Collins has fired 68 goals in 162 appearances for the Hatters over the last three and a half seasons and he admits a milestone game of his career could not come at a better venue.

Better

"I couldn't ask for a better game to bring up my 500th career appearance than Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup," he adds.

"It has been a long story now and I've had a good career. I was 19, 20, and went to Shrewsbury and here I am 500 games later.

"When Martin O'Neill said I should take the chance to go to League Two when I was 19, you wonder where your career is going.

"When I was at Villa, because it was such a big club, they were a top-six side then, finishing in Europe, with big big players, you had everything done for you.

"When you get a chance to go out into men’s football in the big world, you come out of digs and have your own place, it was what I wanted to do.

"Now I have played at a good level for my club, won promotions with three clubs and played international football for Ireland.

"I still have a dream of playing in the Premier League one day and hopefully it can happen with Luton."

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