Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish backs James Collins to win fitness race ahead of Fulham clash

The new Villa boss is hopeful that the Wales international will be fit in time for their Craven Cottage opener on Saturday, despite injuring his back in training last week

Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish has backed center-back James Collins to be fit for its clash with Fulham.

The former West Ham defender injured his back in training last week, but McLeish believes his strong character means he will do all he can to be fit for the Craven Cottage clash.

"James has injured his back. He did it a few days ago to be fair and he thought he was okay in training on Friday,” McLeish was quoted as saying by the club’s official website.

“I think the intensity of training over the last few days just flared it up and he was a bit stiff. Therefore, we didn't want to risk him. It's a worry - but knowing the type of character James is, I'm sure he'll be determined to be on that pitch at Craven Cottage."

As a result of the injury, Collins has been forced to pull out of the Wales squad for their midweek friendly against Australia.

Villa will have to deal with a number of its players being called up for midweek friendlies. Barry Bannan has been named in the Scotland squad to play Denmark, Richard Dunne, Shay Given and Ciaran Clark have all been called up to the Republic of Ireland squad to face Croatia at the Aviva Stadium, while Stiliyan Petrov has been named in the Bulgaria squad to play Belarus.

Although the situation is not ideal, McLeish insists he is ready for the new season.

"We'll put some more practice in during the coming week, although some players are away on international duty which prevents me from doing it the way I would have liked to prepare," said McLeish. "But I'm ready to go now - no turning back, we've got to go and look forward to the whole campaign and trust the guys that go out on the pitch to do it for Aston Villa."