Transfer Talk: Clubs courting Burnley colossus Collins
There were not many bright spots in Burnley's Premier League relegation — but the form of centre-back Nathan Collins was one.
The Irishman arrived to minimal fanfare last June and was forced to bide his time before making a big impact for the Clarets.
After a strong end to the season, the 21-year-old has been linked with a move away from Turf Moor.
As the Republic of Ireland meet Ukraine this evening, we look at what lies ahead for Collins with a number of clubs in the market to secure his signature.
Injury to captain Ben Mee afforded Collins a run in the Burnley side last term and the County Kildare native grasped the opportunity with both hands.
Collins made 19 Premier League appearances and seamlessly slotted into the Clarets' rearguard.
Comfortable in possession, the former Stoke defender showcased his ability to progress the ball from the back with line-breaking passes and marauding forward runs.
The 6ft 4in youngster also offered an attacking threat from set-pieces as he netted twice in the top flight last term.
While on international duty, Collins created more chances (three) than anyone else during Ireland's 1-0 Nations League defeat to Ukraine last week, underlining his quality in possession.
Collins is a defender first and foremost.
He contributed to five clean sheets last term and did not make a single error leading to an opposition goal.
The Burnley man also ranked 14th for possessions won in the defensive third at an average of 4.21 per 90 minutes.
Furthermore, Collins made the most of his height to win an average of 3.18 aerial duels per 90, while ranking 14th among all Premier League centre-backs for tackles attempted per 90 (two).
Ready for the challenge
Despite making just 39 Championship appearances before joining from Stoke last summer, Collins has more than held his own against some of the continent's greatest attackers — including Tottenham talisman Harry Kane.
Ex-boss Mike Jackson believes Collins is set for a long Premier League career.
Speaking after Collins starred in the 1-0 reverse at Spurs, he said: "That's brilliant for him, he took on that challenge of playing against one of the best strikers around, which is great for a 21-year-old.
"But it doesn't surprise me because I know what he's like and what he's capable of.
"I think he is improving all the time. He has this fearless thing as well, which I think all good players have. They have to have a belief, it is not arrogance, he wants to improve.
"I think he can still improve a lot. But he has got a foundation to go on and play at this level for a long time."
It may prove extremely difficult for potential buyers to prise Collins away from Turf Moor this summer.
The defender was handed a bumper four-year contract when he made the switch to Lancashire last year with the Clarets also holding the option for a further 12 months.
With Burnley stalwarts James Tarkowski and Mee departing at the end of their contracts later this month, Collins will surely be a starter next season — assuming he remains with the club.
The centre-back was a standout performer in the Championship in 2020-21 and Burnley will be reluctant to sell as they bid for an immediate Premier League return.
Newcastle appear to be the leading contenders to land Collins as the Magpies look to build a side that is capable of cracking the top six in the near future.
A switch to Leeds has also been touted with the Whites' leaky defence in dire need of reinforcement.
The Yorkshire outfit conceded 79 goals in the Premier League last season under Jesse Marsch and Marcelo Bielsa — only bottom side Norwich (84) let in more.
An impressive showing on international duty tonight just might tempt one of the interested parties to make Burnley an offer they cannot refuse.