NEWPORT’S James Collins hopes his retirement from international football will allow the next generation of Welsh stars to emerge.

The 34-year-old centre-back won 50 caps for his country but has now told manager Chris Coleman that he will stand aside – unless he’s needed in an injury crisis.

“The time has come to step aside to let the younger lads take our great country forward and to great things," said Collins on Instagram.

“It's been a difficult decision to come to, to leave behind such an amazing set of lads and a top manager in Chris Coleman and all his staff, but I feel the time is right.”

Coleman paid tribute to the West Ham United defender, saying: “It's a shame because I've really enjoyed working with him.

“He's different to the modern-day professional – let's put it that way.

“He's definitely someone I'd put in a dressing room that I can remember, rather than the one I'm working with now. But he's been absolutely fantastic.

“He wants to spend a bit more time on himself to try and extend his domestic career and he's got young children as well.

“He has said if we're absolutely desperate he would come out of retirement – and that speak volumes for 'Ginge' that he has given us that option.”

Newport-born Collins first made his name at Cardiff City, helping the Bluebirds to win promotion to the Championship in 2003 and making his Wales debut the following year.

Collins joined West Ham along with Cwmbran’s Danny Gabbidon in 2005 and spent three years at Aston Villa between 2009 and 2012 before rejoining the Hammers.

Newport County AFC manager Michael Flynn is an old friend and he paid tribute to Collins after his announcement.

“He’s somebody I’m very proud of,” said Flynn.

“I went to school with James and he’s lived the dream – I would have loved to have his career.

“He’s been at the top now for 10 or 12 years and he’s had an outstanding career.

“He’s a credit to his family and to himself and I’ve got nothing but good words to say about him.

“He’s somebody I know and keep in touch with and, although I’m disappointed that he won’t play for Wales again, he’s got to think of the long term.

“He’s starting to pick up a couple of niggles here and it’s maybe time for the new blood to come through in the Welsh squad and for James to prolong his career in the Premier League or the Championship.”