Can James Collins be the answer to Ireland’s goalscoring problem?

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One in. One out. As David McGoldrick called time on his Ireland career, having made 14 appearances for the boys in green, Luton Town striker James Collins was recalled into the squad. Despite his limited amount of caps and only one goal to his name, McGoldrick bows out of the international game as a fan favourite. His tremendous work ethic and ability to bring others into play by dropping deep was what endeared him to the Irish fans.

Where will the goals come from?

Although McGoldrick will be missed, Ireland have continued to struggle to find the net, even with him in the team. Sean Maguire and Shane Long have been omitted from the squad, casting further doubt over their Ireland futures. Aaron Connolly has not started a game for his club Brighton since the last international break. Stephen Kenny hinted at Connolly’s prospects of filling the void left by McGoldrick by moving more centrally.

Adam Idah, like Connolly, has struggled to find game time at Norwich City this season. There was hope that the Cork man would push on as his team dropped down from the Premier League. But this hasn’t been the case. Callum Robinson enjoyed a bright start to the campaign for West Brom, scoring a brace against Chelsea. Since then he has only started one game, left standing in the shadows of new recruit Karlan Grant.

That leaves James Collins. The striker has four Ireland caps to his name, scoring on his debut against Bulgaria last year. Until now, Kenny has opted for youth when selecting his strikers, drafting in Idah and Troy Parrott whilst overlooking Collins in his last two squads.

Since the former Dundalk manager took over, his team have scored one goal in five games. In spite of the obvious scoring drought, Ireland have taken more shots and crafted bigger chances than their opponents in four out of Kenny’s first five games in charge. The game against Slovakia typifies these statistics. The chances have been there, but the goals haven’t.

How does James Collins compare to the rest?

This season, James Collins has scored five goals in all competitions, including a hat-trick against Norwich City in the Carabao Cup. Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly are both on one for the season, whilst Callum Robinson has scored three.

Focusing on last season alone, according to sofascore.com James Collins averaged a goal every 282 minutes, netting 14 times in 46 appearances. These numbers may not look impressive considering Collins is playing in the Championship. However it must be remembered that Luton Town had only been promoted last season, and finished in 19th place. Not a bad return for a struggling side.

In contrast, Connolly managed three goals last season in the league, averaging one every 422 minutes. Idah didn’t feature as much for Norwich, starting only one game with his remaining eleven appearances coming from the bench. He failed to find the net. A hat-trick in the FA Cup against Preston North End was the highlight of his season. Robinson made the switch to West Brom at the beginning of the year, going on to score three goals for the Baggies (goal every 287 minutes).

Ignoring the fact that Collins is playing at a lower level, it is clear to see that his goal-scoring record is superior in comparison to his attacking counterparts in the current squad. Furthermore, Collins’ current form must also be taken into consideration, particularly with Connolly, Robinson and Idah all limited to substitute appearances in recent weeks.

Collins offers an alternative option for Stephen Kenny, who needs to start seeing his side convert chances into goals. Many would view McGoldrick’s retirement as the perfect opportunity for the younger players like Connolly and Idah to step up. Yet domestic football hasn’t been kind to them thus far. Ireland need goals and they need them now, so maybe it is time for Collins to steal the limelight.

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