Zola confirms Collins interest

Villa step up pursuit of Hammers defender

Collins: Wanted by Villa

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West Ham United boss Gianfranco Zola has confirmed Aston Villa have shown an interest in signing James Collins.

The Wales international has been tracked by Stoke City in recent weeks, with Tony Pulis having been hopeful of luring the defender to the Britannia Stadium.

However, Villa have now emerged as favourites to sign Collins in a £5million deal before the close of the transfer window on Tuesday.

Collins' performance in Saturday's 0-0 draw at Blackburn Rovers was praised by Zola, who also admitted the centre-half could be leaving West Ham.

"James was really good, to be honest," said Zola. "He played a good game.

"Considering the rumours around him, his concentration is 100 per cent spot on.

"Villa have said they are interested in him, so we'll see what happens."

Villa manager Martin O'Neill has been looking to improve his defensive options over the summer after losing Martin Laursen to retirement and selling Zat Knight to Bolton.

A £6million deal has been agreed with Manchester City for Richard Dunne and Collins could join the Irishman in heading to Villa Park.