James Collins heaps praise on owners and boss for building strongest squad he's known at West Ham

West Ham United defender James Collins has praised the club's owners and new manager Slaven Bilic for assembling the strongest squad he's seen at the club.

The 31-year-old Welshman was speaking at a pre-match press conference – which was reported by the club's official website – ahead of West Ham's Europa League third qualifying round clash against FC Astra on Thursday night.

The fans' favourite's words carry some weight too considering he has played more than 130 games for the east Londoners during two spells spanning seven years.

Crucially he has also played under three different sets of owners, firstly Terence Brown, then the Icelandics who sold him to Aston Villa and in his second spell David Sullivan and David Gold - and it is the latter two who have impressed him most.

One of West Ham's best performers last season, Collins has watched with delight as the Irons have been one of the most active clubs in the summer transfer market bringing in nine players so far with the promise of more to come.

And in his opinion it has left new manager Slaven Bilic with the best squad he has known during his time with the club.

"We've got a strong squad and all credit goes to the chairmen and the gaffer for getting the squad how it is, we've got some top quality players and I think that's deserved for a club like West Ham and the way we're looking to go," he told the assembled media.

"Yes, I'd say so (it's the best squad of players in his time at the club).

"Some of the signings like the gaffer says, it's still early days, but the signings have been quality, the additions to the squad have been tremendous."

Words carry weight

Collins is well qualified to talk about comings and goings at West Ham as he has seen a fair few in his seven years at the club.

The former Cardiff star was part of Alan Pardew's squad which made it to that epic FA Cup final against Liverpool in 2007.

He also played in Europe for the Hammers against Palermo the following season – the club's reward for having made the FA Cup final – where he played alongside the likes of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.

Hammers on the verge of something special?

So when Collins says this is the best squad he has seen at the club, fans can start to believe it might truly be the start of something memorable under Bilic in what is the last ever season at their Boleyn Ground home of 112 years.

Collins' remark "the way we're looking to go" also tells you something about the ambitions of the club to really start challenging the elite as they prepare for their big move to the 54,000 seater Olympic Stadium next summer.

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