In this case, we’re referring to the East London streets somewhere near the Olympic Stadium. Excuse me, I mean the O-G Boleyn Ground!
If you ask any West Ham fan about Jack Collison, there is a strong guarantee they would respond in a positive manner, but also with a twinge of sadness and regret. Jack, at only 27 years old, was forced to retire in 2016 following an unfortunate bout of injuries.
There’s no doubting he had potential though, and that was clear in the games where he was fit. In those lost years, it’s easy to forget about the impact he could have made on his club and country, Wales, also. Jack was most prominent for the Hammers in the 2011-12 season where the London club were pushing for promotion back to the Premier League. With 31 league appearances and four goals in that season, it makes us wonder how big an impact Jack would have had on the team if he stayed injury free.
Fans of club and country alike could see how much talent the midfielder had between his injuries. He was named Young Hammer of the Year in the 08-09 season and was voted BBC London Young Footballer of the Year in 2009 also whilst always being a fan favourite. The damaging and career defining knee injury cast a dark cloud over Jack’s future aged just 20 after an awkward fall against Wigan Athletic. After that, between surgery and recurring problems with his knee, full fitness was a massive issue for the young prospect.
But let’s cast back to that 2011-12 season where West Ham were fighting for their place back in the Premier League after relegation the previous season. Alongside Jack Collison in midfield, the Londoners had a vibrant group of players including Ricardo Vaz Te, Kevin Nolan and Sam Baldock, who all contributed to the scoresheet during that time.
It was also the first season under the appointment of Sam Allardyce, so it was clear the team had to adapt quickly to the challenging environment of a new league and a new manager. The Hammers did well though, with Collison bossing the midfield throughout the season – with his passing range and cultured positional play contributing greatly to this. With a third place finish and a play-off victory, it was back to the Premier League for the Irons.
There were a couple of loan moves to clubs including Wigan and Bournemouth in the aftermath of his Hammers exit two seasons later, before sadly having to retire in 2016. At 27 years old, there was still a lot of energy left for a player of such quality had he not been forced to retire. And just how much of an impact Jack would have on the Hammers midfield if he were to play there now? European football would already be guaranteed, I reckon!
David Moyes has a strong line-up of midfielders to choose from, including Declan Rice, Thomas Soucek and loanee Jesse Lingard, and I believe Jack Collison would [hypothetically] fit in nicely with this young lot. His wisdom, deadly right foot and admirable tackling tekkers would make West Ham’s midfield an even stronger outfit. The same can be said for the Welsh national side where Jack earned only 15 caps during his playing days.
Again, his experience would benefit a midfield set-up including other veterans of the game, like Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen. Overall, Hammers fans (in particular) will never forget the bravery and passion the youngster showed during his time there. Now working with Atlanta United FC in the MLS, let’s hope that his influence can shine in a competition which is growing almost as rapidly as his own rise to prominence in claret and blue!