Jack owes award to his manager!

JACK COLLISON collected the coveted Young Hammer of the Year award after Sunday s win over Middlesbrough and immediately gave most of the credit for his success to manager Gianfranco Zola. Under Alan Curbishley, the 20-year-old Welsh international seemed

JACK COLLISON collected the coveted Young Hammer of the Year award after Sunday's win over Middlesbrough and immediately gave most of the credit for his success to manager Gianfranco Zola.

Under Alan Curbishley, the 20-year-old Welsh international seemed to lack confidence, but since the arrival of the new boss, he has established himself in the first team to the point where he has become an essential member of the side.

"For me, a big factor was the new manager coming in," explained Collison after helping his team to a 2-1 victory, where he teed up Junior Stanislas for the winning goal. "He gave me a lot of confidence and belief in my own abilities, to go out and show what I'm about.

"He gave me my chance and I'm doing my best to repay the faith he's shown in me."


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Collison's epiphany came at Fratton Park in December when he put in a stunning performance, scoring one goal and making two others as West Ham thumped Pompey 4-1, and from that point on, the midfielder was on course for that Young Hammer award.

At the beginning of the campaign, Collison seemed nowhere near the first team squad, let alone the starting line-up, but it was a situation that he was determined to rectify.

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"At the start of the season it was about getting my head down and working hard," said Collison. "There were times when I was a little bit frustrated not to be playing and not being on the bench.

"But I got my head down, worked hard and got an opportunity and I haven't looked back since."

Despite his success this season and the trophy that came at the end of it, Collison is determined to keep his feet on the ground.

"I've only just come into the team this season, so I've only played 20-odd games and the hard work begins now," he said.

"I haven't achieved anything, but an award like this gives me great confidence to really work hard and keep progressing and hopefully I can be a really big player for West Ham."

With more experienced midfielders likely to return to fitness for the start of the new season, including Hammer of the Year Scott Parker, Collison faces another big challenge to keep his place in the side, but he thinks the fight for a start will be great for the team.

"If you look at the midfielders we've got here, we've got Scottie Parker to come back, we're going to have a fully-fit Kieron Dyer, which in itself is going to be like signing a new player," he said.

"But, as I say, the competition for places is going to help us progress as a team and I think we can really push for Europe next year.

"For me personally, I really like to play in the centre, but for the manager, I'd play anywhere - I'd play in goal if he asked me!

"I just love being out there and playing football."

Let us hope that this exciting young talent never loses his enthusiasm for the game, and who knows, he may be swapping the Young Hammer award for the big one in the not too distant future.

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