James Collins today completed a £2.5m move from Villa to former club West Ham as boss Paul Lambert continues to reshape his squad for the new season.
The Wales international, who joined Villa from the Hammers for £5m in 2009, had 12 months left on his contract and Lambert has decided to allow the defender to leave now rather risk losing him for nothing in a year’s time.
Villa are set to finalise a £3.2m deal for Feyenoord centre-back Ron Vlaar imminently to replace Collins, while speculation has intensified in the past 24 hours that Alan Hutton could be set to leave for Stoke City.
Collins, 28, has signed a four-year contract at Upton Park and revealed he jumped at the opportunity to rejoin his former club.
“As soon as I knew the interest was there from West Ham, I couldn’t wait to get down and sign,” said Collins, who will face his old Villa team-mates in the first game of the season at Upton Park.
“I had a great affinity with the club and the fans when I was here the first time and I enjoyed my time here so much last time that it wasn’t a hard decision to make.
“I think everyone knew I didn’t really want to leave when I did (in 2009).
“I’ve come back and I’m a much better player this time around so I can’t wait to get cracking. Coming back and seeing some of the same old faces is great.”
Meanwhile, Darren Bent may have to wait until the weekend to get another opportunity to show Lambert he is the right man to take the captain’s armband this season.
The Villa striker is unlikely to be fit for tonight’s friendly against Peterborough at London Road as he nurses a thigh strain picked up on the club’s US tour, having been handed the captaincy role in pre-season so far.
“If I can hang on to it, I’ll be delighted, that’s a big goal of mine,” said the England international.
“The gaffer just said to me ‘I’ve given you the armband for now, and I just want you to justify why I’ve given it to you’.”