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TOWN v VILLA: Friend or foe?
JAMES Collins will come face to face with half-a-dozen Aston Villa players with whom he shared his footballing apprenticeship tonight.
The 21-year-old was on the books at the Premier League giants for two years as a youngster before being sold to Shrewsbury in the summer of 2011.
In that time he came to be a part of a very successful and extraordinarily talented youth team in the West Midlands, a side from which many of his former team-mates have gone on to forge careers in the Villa first-team squad.
Players like Marc Albrighton, Barry Bannan and Chris Herd may now be household names up and down the country but Collins still views them as the kids he grew up with.
And he can’t wait to do battle with them once again this evening.
He told the Advertiser: “It means a great deal to me, I was very excited when the draw came out. I had some great times there and still have a lot of friends there so I’m really looking forward to it.
“There’s six or seven of them who I still know. We had a good youth team and they’ve all gone on to bigger and better things so it’ll be good on the night as well.
“They ring me and we have a little chat about it and a little laugh but when it comes down to it on the night it will be quite serious because obviously both sides have a lot at stake and want to go through to the next round.
“We still go on holiday in the summer together, me and a few of the lads.
“The banter’s good. We’re always texting and meeting up when we can so it’s good.
“They’ve been saying it would just be good to play against each other again, seeing all the old faces and I think a few of my old coaches are coming down to see the game as well.
“It would be good to see everyone but on the night you’ve got to put that behind you.
“I had a great time there, I had some great coaches there, we were quite successful as well winning youth leagues and reserve leagues - I enjoyed my time there.”
Having already seen off two Premier League sides under Paolo Di Canio, Collins is confident Town can add a third big scalp to their collection tonight.
“The gaffer’s said this from day one. Since the draw came out he’s said we can beat these and it’s a great advantage getting the fans behind us.,” he said.
“I don’t know whether they’ll want to come to Swindon on a Tuesday night and get at us like we’ll get at them. The lads are going to be at it. We don’t know too much about the history but if we can make history it would be fantastic.”