Many Hammers will remember the name Jack Collison as one of the brightest young West Ham players in the last couple of decades, but how did he have his career cut-short? And where is he now?
The former Welsh international joined our Academy at the age of 17 in 2005 and would make his Hammers debut just two-years later at The Emirates Stadium on New Year’s Day 2008. Collison would also go on to make one further appearance during the 2007/2008 season, as we finished 10th in The Premier League, but it was clear that a future star had been born. The icing on the cake was well and truly laid for the young star, as he was called-up to make his Wales debut against Iceland at the back-end of the season.
The arrival of new-manager Gianfranco Zola in summer 2008 brought more playing opportunities for the starlet, who was about to have his best season to date in Claret and Blue. Collison would go onto make 25 appearances in all competitions that campaign, arguably his best Hammers season overall. In that time, the No31 scored his first-three Hammers goals, including a fantastic lob-winner against Mark Hughes’s Manchester City. However, the first of his career-crippling Injuries would occur in the 1-2 victory away at Wigan Athletic, in the form of a disturbing dislocated-knee which kept him out from March to May. Collison also picked up the two prestigious awards of Young Hammer of the Year and BBC London Young Footballer of the Year for his efforts in helping us to a 9th placed Premier League finish.
The start of the torrid 2009/2010 season held in store the defining moment of Collison’s Hammers career. Tragically, Jack’s father Ian Collison was killed in a motorcycle accident on his way to watch his son in our 1-2 defeat against Spurs, Collison was broken the news after coming off in the 89th minute of the clash. However, in a brave and heroic move, the graceful midfielder decided to still feature in the huge League Cup tie with bitter rivals Millwall just a couple of days later. The game was shrouded by violence, as we overcame The Lions 3-1 in extra-time. Several pitch invasions had left the grieving 20-year-old understandably distraught and needing to be ushered off the pitch at the full-time whistle in tears. The bravery of the attacking midfielder etched him into Hammers folklore, with fans of all teams sending him messages of support.
Despite the kindness of the football world, Collison’s body was not being kind to him and he would only go on to make 22 League appearances that season. In May 2010, it was announced that the central-midfielder would undergo knee-surgery to rectify the injury that he sustained a year earlier and this would keep him out until the following May. Collison returned for a brief cameo in our relegation to The Championship, but would enjoy his most successful season to date in the second tier of English football.
The Wales star went on to play 36 times in all competitions during our 2011/2012 promotion back to the top flight, scoring key goals in the run-un and Play-Off Semi Final against Cardiff City. However, injury struck yet again in the seasons that followed, limiting Collison to few appearances and few highlights. Loan spells to Bournemouth and Wigan Athletic would bring little to cheer about, and at the end of the 2013/2014 season, Jack Collison was released by West Ham United and then-manager Sam Allardyce. The attack-minded player penned an open letter to fans in which he thanked them and expressed how much he enjoyed his time in East-London.
On his next venture, a move to Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town, injury continued to plague Collison and he was released from Portman Road in December 2014. A couple of months away from the game would be next for the Watford-born star and eventually, he signed a contract with Peterborough United at the start of the 2015/2016 season. However, after a handful of League One appearances and persistent knee problems, Collison was forced to retire on Valentine’s Day of last year at the tender age of 27. Buoyed by the idea of a managerial career, the former Cherries man continued his afore appointed role as Posh U21’s manager after his retirement.
For the few months that followed his devastating final curtain-call in his playing-career, the 28-year-old continued his various coaching roles and pursued his badges, he even set up his own Soccer School: JC Soccer School.
Nowadays, Collison has returned to East-London as West Ham United U16’s manager and is loving life in Claret and Blue once again. Many Hammers fans are now being left to pose the question: will the Cult Hero eventually build his way up to being the first-team manager? -Only time will tell but for now, everyone in the world of West Ham United is just delighted to see him back where he belongs at The London Stadium.