Collymore sets his sights on England recall

Leicester striker has his fitness back and feels positive about the coming season
Click to follow
The Independent Online

When Martin O'Neill finally announced he was leaving Leicester City, among the many questions raised about the future of Celtic, and the consequences for the English club of which he had become the heart and soul, was the matter of where this potentially seismic change would leave Stan Collymore.

When Martin O'Neill finally announced he was leaving Leicester City, among the many questions raised about the future of Celtic, and the consequences for the English club of which he had become the heart and soul, was the matter of where this potentially seismic change would leave Stan Collymore.

It was, after all, less than five months since O'Neill had effectively saved the maverick striker's career, opening up an escape route from three traumatic years at Aston Villa and the possibility of rehabilitation as a footballer after the ravages of clinical depression.

Heaven knows, there had already been set-backs. Front-page headlines at the start of his career at Filbert Street after an ill-advised prank with a fire extinguisher in a Spanish hotel, then a few brief shining moments on the field brought to a shuddering halt by a broken leg. And now his samaritan was abandoning him.

For any individual, it would have been a testing moment, let alone for a young man still struggling to keep inner demons at bay, as Collymore concedes is how he must see his condition, even though the days of long, emotionally painful counselling sessions are behind him.

Yesterday, however, he was able to demonstrate that he has emerged from the latest turbulence unscathed. He is ready to start a new season physically and mentally intact and prepared to pursue new goals, with the relaunch of an England career so far limited to three caps at the top of his list.

"When somebody of Martin's calibre moves on there is always a period when people speculate and wonder what the effect will be of the new faces coming in," he said. "As a player you never know what will happen. If a manager comes in and does not rate you then you move on, but I would have been able to deal with that had it happened. That's how football is.

"I had met Peter Taylor a few times through his Southend connections and Colin Murphy, who he has brought in here as his assistant, actually signed me for Southend from Crystal Palace. But I cannot say I was any more reassured than anyone else when I found out Peter was coming. But he called me very early on and said he was looking forward to working with me and no issue was talked about other than playing football.

"I don't want to talk about my illness because it is a situation where you don't want to tempt fate. It is something that can happen again so I'm very wary of making bold statements. However, I think it showed when I came to Leicester last season, particularly in the games against Sunderland, when I scored the hat-trick, and Leeds, that from a football point of view things were OK.

"It can be taken from that that generally in my life things were pretty much back to normal and I feel as good now as I did when I played my first game back in the Premiership against Watford. The break I suffered has healed well, I'm injury-free and ready to play football again. It doesn't really feel like a new start, just a continuation."

Taylor, it is clear, can be as good for Collymore as was O'Neill. Indeed, it was the former England Under-21 coach who suggested he should see himself as a strong candidate for a place in Kevin Keegan's England side, especially now that Alan Shearer is no longer in the running. Collymore, for his part, will not be slow to advertise his claims.

"Without a doubt I can get back in the frame," he said. "A lot of things have to come together, I need to make a good start and score goals - hopefully, when the England manager is watching. But I think there are things I can offer the team.

"Watching some of the games in Euro 2000, for all the ability that was there in the England squad, there were not a lot of players who were running at the opposition, committing them. Hopefully at my very best I can do that. I can run at players, create chances, get wide and get crosses in and take players on."

With an irony that is typical of the football fixture list, Collymore's latest relaunch starts against Aston Villa, who visit Filbert Street on Saturday, an occasion with the potential to reopen old wounds, notably with the Villa manager, John Gregory, who is always liable to make outspoken comments and made no secret of his difficulty in accepting Collymore's psychological problems.

Collymore is determined that any controversy on Saturday will not be of his making, dismissing the Villa episode as in the past, although admitting to regrets about his time there.

"Looking back, it was a mistake to go there, although not because it was Villa. As a fan it was my dream to play for them but in retrospect it would have been better to have sorted out my problems while I was still at Liverpool.

"It was the timing of it. When I went to Villa it was in the middle of the illness, and having a disastrous first season personally and as a club did not help, especially because it was in full view of family and friends and supporters I knew. It would have been nice to go there feeling as I did when I first came here."

Comments