Collins says night out helped West Ham to get back on track
By Claire Bloomfield
LONDON (Reuters) - A much-publicised players' night out helped to galvanise West Ham after a terrible start to the Premier League season, defender James Collins said.
Four consecutive league defeats had left the Hammers in the bottom three, prompting coach Slaven Bilic to grant his squad a late night out on Monday as a team-bonding exercise.
Reports of some players being involved in an all-night drinking session surfaced during the week but Collins played them down after West Ham snapped their losing sequence with a 1-1 home draw with Middlesbrough on Saturday.
"There was a lot written (about the player's night out) when there was no need to," Collins told reporters.
"If it was last year and we were seen out nothing would have been said. Sometimes a night like that when we are all sat around the table with people chatting about different ideas it is as good as a training session.
"Obviously it worked, we knew what we had to do and we were better today but obviously we would have liked the win."
West Ham fell behind to Cristhian Stuani's header shortly after the break but Dimitri Payet scored a dazzling equaliser.
Until then West Ham had offered few glimpses of the football that saw them push for a top-four spot last season but Collins said an increased work rate was encouraging.
"We haven't been working hard enough and we've spoken about it all week," Collins said. "Obviously we watched the game at the weekend (a 3-0 defeat to Southampton).
"I wasn't involved but it was evident from where I watched it. We've had a few words, the boys know we need to work harder and I think we did that."
With West Ham's rocky start much has been made of the club's move to the former Olympic Stadium from the tight confines of their old Upton Park ground.
While the crowds are bigger, the atmosphere is nothing like before, according to Middlesbrough's former West Ham winger Stewart Downing.
"Don't get me wrong, it is a lovely stadium and a great set-up but I prefer the old ground," Downing said. "At Upton Park it's on top of you, the atmosphere.
"It is a little bit different and I did find it a bit strange but the players are going to have to get used to that."
(Writing by Martyn Herman; Editing by Clare Fallon)