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The Hammers defender is delighted with the signing of the former Liverpool winger and believes that the added competition for places can only help the club progress further

West Ham defender James Collins believes that his side have found an "absolute bargain" in signing Stewart Downing from Liverpool.

The 29-year-old cost the Hammers around £5 million and the centre-back expects that the winger will be worth every penny.

"He looked very sharp," Collins told reporters after Downing made his debut off the bench in a 2-0 opening-day victory over Cardiff City.

"He's got loads of England caps so we've got a great signing there. I think we have got an absolute bargain. A couple of years ago at Villa he was tearing defences to pieces.

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"Obviously it didn't go well at Liverpool but hopefully we can get him firing. He and Andy Carroll played together at Liverpool and they get on well off the pitch. I think they are both from the North East so they have that certain understanding."

The arrival of Downing means that manager Sam Allardyce has numerous options in midfield, with Matt Jarvis and Joe Cole also leading stars at the club, but Collins thinks that competition for places is a good thing to have.

"The competition is a good thing – that is where we have moved on from last year," the defender insisted. "You have always got someone right up behind you wanting to take your place. If you don't play well, you are going to be out of the team. It keeps you on the ball knowing there is competition behind you."

Allardyce has set the team a target of "about 50 points" this season and Collins reckons that the target is achievable with the players at their disposal.

"That would be brilliant for us," he agreed. "We're improving the side by spending money so, for the second year in, it's as good a side as I've had."