James Collins is keeping his feet firmly on the ground after announcing his arrival on the international stage with his first Republic of Ireland goal.
The 28-year-old Luton striker was handed a senior debut as a substitute in Tuesday night’s 3-1 friendly victory over Bulgaria at the Aviva Stadium, and celebrated his elevation in style when he turned home Enda Stevens’ cross to cement the win three minutes from time.
However, despite his understandable excitement, he swiftly turned his attention to Saturday’s Sky Bet Championship trip to QPR and the task of helping his club to build upon back-to-back promotions.
Asked if he had done enough to give manager Mick McCarthy something to think about for next month’s Euro 2020 qualifiers in Georgia and Switzerland, Collins said: “Obviously that’s down to the gaffer, but the gaffer has told me what he wants from me and I think I managed to do that.
“All I can do now is go back to my club football and keep trying to play well, and we’ll see what happens next month.
“Things when I get home won’t change. I’ll keep training hard and I’ve got a really important game for Luton on Saturday, so there’s no time to rest and I’ll look forward to going back and competing on Saturday.”
Collins was drafted into the squad following Sean Maguire’s withdrawal through injury and ahead of the experienced Shane Long, and found himself thrust into the limelight after David McGoldrick and Callum Robinson were sent home for treatment after Thursday night’s qualifying draw with the Swiss.
None of the four strikers had an international goal to their name when the squad assembled in Dublin, but they headed back to their clubs with both McGoldrick and Collins having opened their respective accounts.
That was a source of immense pride for the latter, whose career has come full circle since he and fellow professional Samir Carruthers were banned from all British racecourses following an unseemly incident at Cheltenham Festival in 2016.
Collins said: “It was some feeling. When the gaffer told me to get ready, I was buzzing. To get on the pitch was amazing and obviously to cap it off with a goal, I couldn’t have dreamt it any better.
“It all happened so quickly, but once it went in, I was just so happy. It was a surreal moment. For me to score at the Aviva in front of all those great fans, it was a really special moment for me.”
Stay updated with the latest news, gossip and football stories by following us @Football_P