Why Aaron Collins’ World Cup disappointment will be Bristol Rovers gain

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Collins found out yesterday that he wouldn’t be representing Wales at the World Cup

"Hopefully the call will come someday, if it’s not for this World Cup, I imagine he’ll get one if he carries on doing what he’s doing," those were the words of Joey Barton after Aaron Collins had delivered an exceptional performance against Cheltenham. Two goals and an assist in a stupendous first-half

A call-up to the Welsh national team has come too soon for the 25-year-old, who has not been included in Wales’ 26-man squad. Rob Page, was given the unenviable task of choosing 26 players to represent Wales in their first World Cup since 1958. Page has opted to go with players that he has worked with since taking over the reins from Ryan Giggs in November 2020.

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Talk, mainly from those around Bristol Rovers, from questions posed by local journalists to the likes of Collins’ compatriot Luca Hoole, as well as Barton and Collins himself. It was a fair questioning at the time given how Collins was performing and a major tournament was on the horizon.

Barton, who would have been hamstrung if Collins was called-up, anticipated a potential call-up by bringing in Scott Sinclair. The opportunity to sign the ex-Celtic winger was hard to turn down but his arrival was motivated so much so by the potential of losing their winger for the next three weeks.

In what is sure to be a gutting feeling for Collins is selfishly Rovers gain, who will be able to choose their best player. There are at least three matches that Rovers will play before and during the group stages of the World Cup; Peterborough United, Boreham Wood and an EFL Trophy match with their opponent yet to be decided. If Collins was called up then there would be an expectance for him to at least be afforded a break also, which would see him unavailable for longer.

Collins is statistically one of the best players in League One right now and is by far the most creative player in the Bristol Rovers squad. He has more than adapted to playing at a higher level and looks like he’s enjoying his football right now. He’s excelling in the third tier at a team whose objectives are to remain in the division.

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His time will surely come if he can keep up the strides he has made in the first part of the campaign. The Welsh national team isn’t afraid to look up to the Football League for personnel and isn’t afforded the selection headache that Gareth Southgate will have.

The thing about major tournaments is that once they are concluded, it is a time of reflection. Wales’ squad is hardly aging by any means but with a EURO 2024 qualifying campaign beginning in March, it can be a time when a fresh impetus is needed to offer an alternative option.

It was always going to be a tough task for Collins to try and get in, especially when he was up against three Premier League forwards, as well as five-time Champions League winner Gareth Bale. March however can be a chance for the Newportonian to put his disappointment behind him. What is on Collins’ side is his newfound versatility with the ability to play all across the forward line, either as a striker, a winger or just behind the striker.

There is a hope that if Collins does represent Wales it will be as a Bristol Rovers player. Most footballers’ ambition is to play at the highest level and representing your country is just that.

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