Jack Collison hails Gianfranco Zola's influence at West Ham

Upton Park

Jack Collison has praised Gianfranco Zola for the influence that he had during the early stages of his career at West Ham United.

 

Jack Collison has said on Goals on Sunday, broadcast on February 21 at 11am, that Gianfranco Zola had a huge influence on him during the early stages of his career.

 

Last week, Collison announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 27 after failing to overcome persistent knee problems.

 

The former Wales international made a total of 121 appearances for the Hammers, but he has suggested that he may not have played that many times had it not been for Zola, who arrived at Upton Park in September 2008.

 

Two months later Collison scored his first goal for West Ham before he went on to play 20 times in the Premier League that season.

 

Collison also revealed that despite Zola only winning 28 per cent of his games in charge, the former Chelsea play-maker exceeded everyone's expectations behind the scenes.

 

Collison said: "He was incredible. When he came in, there was a real excitement around the whole place. He was obviously a magnificent player but you are never quite sure what they are going to be like when they come in.

"He was even better than what you could envision. He took time to care for everyone, whether you were in the team, out the team, one of the younger players or one of the tea ladies around the place. He made it a real good place to be and there was a real good feel factor around the place.

"For me personally, as I was coming through as a youngster, he took the time to do extra bits with me and obviously he gave me my first proper run in the team."

As injuries began to take their toll, Collison would end his career having made the majority of his top-flight appearances under the guidance of Zola.

 

The Italian would leave West Ham in 2010 after the club finished just five points above the relegation zone.

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch