‘If he carries on, who knows’ - Joey Barton’s makes World Cup case for in-form Bristol Rovers striker

Collins has taken the mantle as Bristol Rovers’ most important player but can he make the international stage?

Aaron Collins’ form for Bristol Rovers will be hard for the Welsh FA to miss him out over a potential call-up, admits Joey Barton.

The 24-year-old is top scorer in League One this season after scoring six goals, whilst he has also provided three assists, continuing on from his good form from League Two.

His teammate Luca Hoole was called-up to represent Wales’ Under-21’s this week and given Collins’ form in English football’s third tier, there is a discussion to be had about him earning a call-up from Rob Page.

After Hoole’s call-up, Barton was asked whether the form of Collins would put him in line for a call-up to the Wales senior team, which would leave them without one of their key players.

“I hope not,” Barton joked. “Azza will be desperate to as he’s a proud Welshman. If he does, we need to find more internationals so we can have games called off.

“You don’t want to lose your best players, it will be a nice feather in his cap.”

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Barton, who was patient with Collins last season following a slow start, has drawn similarities with Ipswich Town’s Wes Burns, who he worked with during their time together at Fleetwood Town.

Burns was an important player at the Highbury Stadium and was consistent for the Lancashire outfit, but was often overlooked for other players when the time came for squad announcements.

A move to Portman Road earlier this summer however saw him earn a recall to the senior team and he went on to play in the UEFA Nations League in June.

“He reminds me a bit of Wes Burns at Fleetwood,” the 40-year-old said. “We had Wes and he was pushing hard for 12 months to get in to the Wales senior team. He signed for Ipswich, continued his good form and got in.

“For Az, all he can do is keep scoring goals, keep playing the way that he has, if he keeps doing that, no doubt the powers that be in the Welsh system will be aware of him.”

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Wales’ forward line boasts the likes of super-star Gareth Bale, as well as Fulham’s Dan James and Bournemouth striker Kieffer Moore, whilst Harry Wilson is sidelined but would usually be in a squad.

The continued presence of League Two duo Chris Gunter and Jonny Williams however should hope for Collins to continue his motivation of one day appearing for the senior team of his place of birth.

Luke Harris, a 17-year-old for Fulham, was also called up to the squad for the Nations League matches with Belgium and Poland this month, so there is space for Collins to force his way into their plans.

Squads for major tournaments do throw up some surprises, mainly for younger players who may not have played as much as seasoned professionals.

Collins’ form at a higher level however means that the Football Association of Wales’ staff may find it hard to ignore him for much longer.

Barton said: “He’s probably left it too late to get into the World Cup squad but you never know, if he carries on, who knows?

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“I’d be delighted for him to go to the World Cup because we would lose one of our better players for a long period, if he got in the World Cup squad we’d get a few million quid in for him.”