Collison rising through the ranks

Jack Collison is being given extra responsibility this season and the young midfielder is determined to use it in his quest to make the first team at West Ham United.

The 19-year-old has been made reserve-team captain by coach Kevin Keen and sees it as an opportunity to strengthen his game and make that big push forwards. He led the side again this evening for the visit of Arsenal to the Boleyn Ground and turned in another fine performance in the 2-2 draw. As well as playing at a higher level, he is also relishing regular sessions with the first team.

"It's going really well," he said. "I am trying to pick up as much as I can from training with the first team. Because they are all great players, I can learn so much from them. It is much more intense and the quality obviously is a lot higher, and you have to concentrate more and be sharper in everything you do.

"If you let things slip, you certainly know about it straight away. But equally, the boys are also very encouraging and quick to praise you when you have worked hard and put in the effort and this can only be helpful to me and my game."

Collison, a tall athletic midfielder with an explosive shot, is looking to make the most of his chance when asked to be involved with the first-team squad. He travelled with defender James Tomkins for the 2-1 Carling Cup win at Coventry City and was also named in the 19-man squad to face Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League at the weekend.

Although he did not make the bench, he was undeterred. "Being part of the team like this, going to away matches and seeing at close hand what the build-up is like to big matches is great. It is something I want to be part of more and more. When we won at Coventry, it meant we were in the last eight and it was good to be around the dressing room after the game, seeing how everyone reacted."

Working towards his ambitions of catching the eye of manager Alan Curbishley, Collison knows he must simply keep his head down and work as hard as he can. Taking on the role of captaincy for the reserve team is something he knows can help him. "I am really enjoying the responsibility. I think if anything it is giving me something extra to my game," he admitted.

"You get that extra buzz when you are leading the team out on to the pitch and it's something I want to continue." Asked if he is shouter and how he rallies the troop in a match, Collison said he just tries to get a message across to his team-mates. "I do talk a bit, whether they do really listen to me is another thing! But seriously, most of the boys are good talkers. At the end of the day, if we communicate well as a team it can only help us to getting a good result.

"It is a big step up, going from youth-team football to reserves, it's more competitive," he said. "In the last two years I have been playing reserves, the team has been made up of many of the youth boys. But now Kevin has a squad of players he works with all the time and the gaffer has been putting in experienced first-team players, so that has been a big help to the younger players like me.

"For me this season the aims are to be in and around the first team as much as I can and to make sure I put in the performances that will keep me in the manager's eye. I have to keep working as hard as I can, try to impress all the right people and see where that takes me. Then when my chance comes along, I am going to grab it with both hands."