Jack of all trades ready for new test
IT HAS been an amazing few months for 20-year-old Jack Collison, WRITES DAVE EVANS. The Welsh international midfielder broke into the first team at Upton Park with some superb individual displays and by May was crowned as the Young Hammer of the Year. It
IT HAS been an amazing few months for 20-year-old Jack Collison, WRITES DAVE EVANS.
The Welsh international midfielder broke into the first team at Upton Park with some superb individual displays and by May was crowned as the Young Hammer of the Year.
It was a deserved prize, despite competition from the likes of James Tomkins and Junior Stanislas, but for Collison, his feet are still very much on the ground.
He returned to action on Sunday in the pre-season clash at Grays and revealed his delight at being back on the field.
"Yes, I'm happy to be back, but that's not just myself, I think all the boys are pleased," said the Watford-born youngster.
"It's nice to get away and have a rest, but at the end of the day, I just love playing football, so it's great to be back."
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It is a refreshing attitude in this day and age, so does Collison think that he must work even harder this season if he is to make a similar impression in the cut and thrust of the Premier League?
"Maybe," he reflected. "I had a very enjoyable season last year, but this season starts now, so hopefully I can kick on, get myself back into the starting line-up and keep progressing.
"It is when you are under pressure that you have to perform at your very best."
Collison may have been a revelation last season, but he is right when he says that he must fight for his place in the starting line-up.
Injury at Wigan in March ruled him out until May and when he surprisingly returned it was to play two games from the bench and the last two in the starting line-up.
With Luis Jimenez coming into the squad as well as the midfielders already there, the Welshman knows how tough it is going to be to stay in there.
"I will play anywhere to be honest," he said. "It is going to be difficult with Scott Parker and Valon Behrami both close to fitness, so it is going to be interesting, but I'm looking forward to the challenge."
On paper, West Ham certainly seem to have strength in depth for the midfield positions, with Mark Noble, Junior Stanislas, Luis Boa Morte and Kieron Dyer all competing with Collison, Parker, Behrami and Mark Noble for a starting spot.
"It is a very good midfield," insisted the midfield star, who has now played 26 matches and scored three goals in claret and blue.
"We got settled last season when we had the diamond, and there is going to be even more competition this time round, so we are going to look to push on as a team."
There was surely no coincidence that Collison and Carlton Cole's absence from the first team after the Wigan game in March, had a telling effect on West Ham's hopes of making it into Europe, but it is a situation that Collison is hoping that the team can correct this time round.
"Personally, I want to get back into the starting XI and as a team we are looking for a good start to the season, a good basis to build on and just see where it takes us," said Collison.
"We were very close to Europe last year and we were a bit disappointed, to be honest, to miss out at the end.
"So we will be looking to kick on again this year and really try and get that Europa League spot."
Collison worked hard in Sunday's friendly at Grays, playing the second half, and he seems to have finally recovered from the knee injury that looked so horrendous when he did it at the JJB Stadium.
"I feel fully fit now," he insisted. "I did have to do a little bit of work on the injury during the summer, but I've had a break as well and now it is up to the whole squad to get fit, so that everyone is firing at the start of the season."
It would be a lot to ask for Collison to emulate the huge strides he made for West Ham last season.
But the Welshman seems to have the work ethic and the sort of attitude that could easily take him to the very top in the game, and that can only be good for the Hammers.