Jack Collison has paid tribute to Lucas Neill as the Wales midfielder reflected on his own fine first season as captain of West Ham United's reserve team.
Kevin Keen gave the youngster the armband a year ago and the Watford-born midfielder grabbed the opportunity with both hands - leading by example as the second string turned in a succession of good displays and challenged all season at the top of the Barclays Premier Reserve League. From there, Collison made his senior bow and also earned Welsh recognition at Under-21 and full international level - and he put much of his success down to the confidence placed in him.
Collison said: "To captain the reserves was a great honour. I have really enjoyed captaining them and it helped me improve as a player and also off the pitch as well with the added responsibility. I am a player who thrives off that responsibility." The 19-year-old said club captain Neill was a key influence on his game and that he had paid close attention to how the Australian right-back had earned the respect of all of his colleagues.
"I learnt a lot off Lucas Neill, watching the way he captains the first team," added Collison. "I think he did a really good job this season. I am just hoping to take a bit of that into what I do with the reserve team. On and off the pitch, he sets a good example. He does a lot of work that not many people get to see. He organises a lot of team-building things, has a lot of meetings and makes sure everyone knows what is going on. It is good to have a captain like that. He is someone to look up to."
Collison will hope to get more experience of playing in the same team as Neill in the new campaign and admitted he would relish the chance of one day following in his footsteps and leading out the players in front of a full house at the Boleyn Ground. "I think that is a few years down the line," he said with a smile when asked whether he dreams of skippering the senior side. "That would be a great honour one day to captain the first team at West Ham. That's what dreams are made of, isn't it?"