Nathan Collins interview: My dad will critique me even if I stop Erling Haaland
Nathan Collins will know that however he performs against Erling Haaland on Saturday, he is assured of a detailed post-match critique from his football-mad family.
Wolverhampton Wanderers are the latest club charged with stopping Manchester City and Haaland, who has 13 goals in his past eight games, but it is a challenge Irish centre-back Collins is relishing.
The £20.5 million summer marking from Burnley has assisted Wolves with getting three clean sheets and the best protective record in the Chief Association. Saturday could demonstrate his hardest test, and there is little uncertainty that his most diehard followers – father Dave, uncle Eamonn and the remainder of the Collins family – will watch with interest.
“My dad and uncle are from the tough days of football,” he says. “They will always tell me where I’m going wrong. Are they my harshest critics? Massively. I could have a wonderful game and they would find the littlest thing, saying I should do this or talk more and my position should be here. It’s great to have that support as it drives me on and makes me work harder.”
‘Football is my life, I can’t get away from it ever’
With such a huge football family, Collins was never liable to work in some other calling and lets it out presumably could not have possibly been permitted. Dave got through Liverpool’s institute, while Eamonn, a previous midfielder, had a long vocation at clubs including Southampton and Colchester. Nathan’s more established sibling, Josh, played in the Class of Ireland and granddad Michael captained Dublin side Vehicle to the FAI Cup in 1950.
“Football is my life and it always has been, I can’t get away from it ever,” Nathan says. “Every night I’m talking to them about football, what the tactics are and what I need to do. Either my mum or dad, or both, will come to every game. They would get planes, trains, taxis or even cycle to matches if they had to. They just love supporting me.
“My younger sibling [Seb] is likewise fixated on football, he duplicates me in all that I do. My younger sibling [Keavy] plays Gaelic football and is great at it.”
So, on to Haaland and City. The £51 million signing has made an incredible impact since joining from Borussia Dortmund, delivering a stupendous acrobatic winner to sink his former club in the Champions League on Wednesday. Collins, however, cannot wait to face Haaland, who was compared to Johan Cruyff by Pep Guardiola this week.
“It’s going to be tough and we know how many chances he [Haaland] gets in a game, but this is why we play football,” Collins says. “We want to keep testing ourselves and go against the best. We’re really excited.
“They are one of the best teams in the world but we have to look at what we’ve been doing well, and if there are little things we can change to stop them from getting balls across the box [to Haaland]. This is one game and if we can get the better of him it will be great, and then we’ll keep going again. We’re just enjoying it and, while people are saying City will be a hard game, we honestly can’t wait.”
Collins, 21, has appeared a shrewd signing since his move from relegated Burnley, becoming the first high-profile arrival in a Wolves transfer window that eventually topped £100 million.
A cutting edge place back who plays on the front foot, he appears to be completely fit to Bruno Lage’s style of play, where protectors are urged to get out of the back four. He names Barcelona’s Gerard Provoke as one of his motivations.
Collins also possesses clear leadership qualities, which have been evident since he was named as Stoke’s youngest captain at the age of 18.
His partnership with Maximilian Kilman is flourishing and Lage’s surprise decision to offload Conor Coady, a key figure in recent Wolves history, has become almost an afterthought. In the last match against Southampton, Collins and Kilman won all their aerial duels.
“Since I’ve come in, me and ‘Maxy’ have fortified all around well,” Collins says. “I sit close to him in the changing area, we’re continuously conversing with one another and sitting for lunch together. We have a decent relationship and that shows on the pitch. We both need to play the new age of football, passing it out from the back. We’ve both got a side where we can stall out in, win headers and overwhelm the striker, however we complete one another well.
“It’s not just me and Max, everyone is playing their part, from Jose [Sa], Jonny, Nelson [Semedo] to Rayan [Ait-Nouri].”
Collins highlights the influence of Carlos Cachada, the first-team coach, as crucial to the solid start: Wolves have conceded only four goals in the league.
“Carlos is always doing extras and showing us clips, telling me what I’m doing good or bad,” he says. “There’s still a lot to improve and even on the ball, defensively, I think we can still go a long way. I’ve always been taught to be on the front foot, be aggressive and step in with play and find the passes. I enjoy the style of play so much.”
Collins likewise focuses to players, for example, Joao Moutinho, Ruben Neves and record £38 million marking Matheus Nunes, demanding their quality and principles “are crazy”.
This week there was a new arrival in the dressing room, after former Chelsea striker Diego Costa joined on a free transfer. “He is so funny and just has an aura about him,” Collins says. “He’s a character and doesn’t stop talking. He’s joined in seamlessly and that’s what the lads are like here.”
After the encounter with the champions, Collins will join up with the Republic of Ireland squad for their Nations League matches. Collins, who was born in County Kildare, is establishing a fine reputation in his homeland, enhancing it further with a brilliant individual goal against Ukraine in June.
The quest for flawlessness is the steady main impetus. “I need to turn into the best player I can be ,” he says. “I don’t figure I’ve done anything in the game yet. I don’t think I’ve done something worth remembering. I need to play here at Wolves as long as I can. My yearnings are top six, Europe or whatever, and I believe should do that here. I need to work on each day.”