After seven months on the sidelines, Jack Collison appears to have fully recovered from a serious knee injury.
Worryingly for West Ham fans, though, are reports that the 24-year-old midfielder will be on and off of the treatment table throughout the rest of his career. Back in September, speaking at a press conference ahead of West Ham’s game against Sunderland, Sam Allardyce told journalists that Collison will never recover from his knee problem.
“That knee, for Jack, is never going to be 100 per cent, so he has to do a management job,” Allardyce said. “It’s not as drastic as Paul McGrath in the past or Ledley King, but it’s similar. “It’s from the old injury he had. He has a problem that’s going to stay with him for the rest of his career and he manages it brilliantly, but there are times when it gets a lot of fluid in there. If the fluid goes in, he’s not available for training again.”
The old injury Big Sam spoke of was the dislocated knee-cap Collison suffered against Wigan Athletic over three years ago, which ruled him out for six weeks and damaged the cartilage in his knee. The severity of Collison’s condition was first revealed by Wales boss Chris Coleman when he was defending the midfielder’s withdrawal from the Welsh national team ahead of their friendly against BosniaHerzegovina.
“Jack Collison has had a serious knee problem, not for six months or 12 months, but for two or three years,” Coleman said. “He has got through games when maybe he shouldn’t have because he wants to play, and he has even come away with Wales when maybe he shouldn’t have. “But we know Jack very well, he has a lot of desire for football, he loves to come and play for Wales and we love having him play for Wales, but physically he cannot do it.
With Allardyce and Coleman both suggesting that Collison’s condition has been worsened by his commitment to playing through the pain, it will come as no surprise that West Ham are being very cautious with Collison’s reintroduction to the team. At the time of writing, Collison has come through 45 minutes of a development squad match against Norwich unscathed and featured few a few minutes at the end of the Everton game.
This is undoubtedly great news for Collison, West Ham, and Wales too, but the Hammers’ number 10 still has some way to go on his road to recovery. Speaking after the development squad game, Collison told the club’s official website just how pleased he was with his run out, but was sure to manage expectations.
Collison added: “I loved it. It was great to be playing football again. I have obviously been out for quite a while so for me it is all about building up my fitness and getting that sharpness back.” While the West Ham midfield has performed well since the club’s return to the Premier League, Collison has still been missed – especially with Ricardo Vaz Te, Yossi Benayoun and Mohammed Diame all succumbing to injury too. After all, the Welsh international proved from a young age that he is a tremendously talented player.
Collison broke into the West Ham side on New Year’s Day 2008 when Alan Curbishly introduced him as a substitute for Freddie Ljungberg in the Hammers’ 2-0 defeat away to Arsenal. But it was under Gianfranco Zola that Collison really caught the eye with his precocious composure on the pitch. Rarely has a young man looked more at home with a football between his feet in front of thousands of fans.
Even though he was young when he burst onto the scene, Collison seemed to have all the attributes of a great midfielder. He was strong, quick, skilful, had great awareness of the game around him, could pick a pass, and had a powerful shot. Sadly, it remains to be seen if we will ever see Collison back at his best for West Ham.
But, on a positive note, Collison has been out for longer than this before – he missed nearly the entire 2010/2011 season following surgery on his damaged knee cartilage – and has somehow managed to come back strong. We can only hope that Collison bounces back with such vigour again and does so whenever he is injured again in the future.