Wales Euro 2016 semi-finalist James Collins retires from football

Former Wales defender James Collins has announced his retirement from playing.

Collins, who appeared for Cardiff City, Aston Villa, West Ham and Ipswich, won 51 caps for Wales and helped Chris Coleman’s side to the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

He featured in that semi-final clash in Lyon when second-half goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani ended Wales’ fairytale journey.

“This will not come as a surprise to most people as I haven’t played for a season,” Collins, 37, posted on Instagram.

“But I’ve decided to officially retire from football. After a lot of thought I believe this is the best thing to do so I can draw a line under my 20 year career and move on to my next chapter.”

Collins, known as Big Ginge to his team-mates, came through the Cardiff City academy and made his debut at the age of just 17 in an FA Cup clash with Bristol Rovers in November 2000. He came on in the game for Robert Earnshaw as the Bluebirds triumphed 5-1.

Collins played as a centre-forward at age-grade level and featured in that position in his first start for Cardiff, scoring in a 1-1 draw with Colchester.

Manager at the time Lennie Lawrence then converted Collins into a centre-back, where he formed a good partnership with Danny Gabbidon, the two also playing together many times for Wales.

A young James Collins coming through with Cardiff City

Collins and Gabbidon were sold to Premier League West Ham in a £3.5million package, which drew a lot of controversy at the time.

He made almost 200 appearances for the Hammers during two spells and also featured close on 100 times for Aston Villa, as well as a brief time at Ipswich where Collins wound down his career.

His 51 international appearances began under Mark Hughes in a friendly against Norway in 2004, while he also featured under John Toshack and Chris Coleman.

Collins was captain in a 2010 friendly against Sweden and even though Ashley Williams and James Chester emerged to take his place in the starting XI, he was retained in the Welsh squad by Coleman.

He wasn’t first-choice at the Euros, but got the call for the semi-final against Ronaldo and Co because of suspension to Ben Davies.

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