Nathan Collins interview: My dad will critique me even if I stop Erling Haaland
Nathan Collins interview: My dad will critique me even if I stop Erling Haaland Exclusive: Summer signing faces a tough task against City on Saturday but can take heart from helping Wolves concede the fewest goals this season
Nathan Collins will know that however if 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 center-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 Head Association. Saturday could prove his toughest test, and there is little doubt that his biggest fans – father Dave, uncle Eamonn and the rest of the Collins family – will be watching with interest.
“My dad and uncle are from the tough days of football,” he says. “They will continuously let me know how I’m veering off-track. Are they my harshest test thing, saying I ought to do this or talk more and my position ought to be here? It’s g critics? Massively. I could have a superb game and they would find the treat to have that help 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 vast football family, Collins was never likely to work in any other profession and admits it probably would not have been allowed. Dave got through Liverpool’s institute, while Eamonn, a previous midfielder, had a long profession at clubs including Southampton and Colchester. Nathan’s older brother, Josh, played in the League of Ireland and grandfather Michael captained Dublin side Transport 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. “Consistently I’m conversing with them about football, what the strategies are, and what I want to do. Either my mum or father or both will come to each game. They would get planes, trains, taxis, or even cycle to matches if they had to. They just love supporting me.
“My little brother [Seb] is also obsessed with football, he copies me in everything I do. My little sister [Keavy] plays Gaelic football and is really good at it.”
So, on to Haaland and City. The £51 million marking has had a mind-boggling effect since joining from Borussia Dortmund, conveying a fantastic gymnastic victor to sink his previous club in the Bosses Association 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 on the off chance that we can get the better of him it will be perfect, and afterward, we’ll continue to go once more. 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 modern-day center-back who plays on the front foot, he seems entirely suited to Bruno Lage’s style of play, where defenders are encouraged to step 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 elevated duels.
“Since I’ve come in, me and ‘Maxy’ have bonded really 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’ve got a good relationship and that shows on the pitch. We both want to play the new generation of football, passing it out from the back. We’ve both got a side where we can get stuck in, win headers and dominate the striker, but we complement each other 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 ton to improve and, surprisingly, ready, protectively, I figure we can in any case go quite far. 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 also points to players such as Joao Moutinho, Ruben Neves, and record £38 million signing Matheus Nunes, insisting their quality and standards “are ridiculous”.
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 entertaining and simply has an atmosphere 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 pursuit of perfection is the constant driving force. “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 want to play here at Wolves as long as I can. My aspirations are top six, Europe, or whatever, and I want to do that here. I want to improve every day.”