Jack Collison has demonstrated yet again why he is being tipped for big things at West Ham United with a strong captain's performance against Reading on Tuesday night
The energetic 19-year-old midfielder turned in a typical box-to-box display to help the home side overrun a strong Royals team featuring several first-team players. United were particularly on song in the first half, when Collison himself opened the scoring in the 2-1 victory that moved Kevin Keen's side to the top of the southern section of the Premier Reserve League. As has been typical of the Cambridge-born talent this season, it was not a straightforward strike.
"I just popped the ball into [Luis] Boa [Morte] first time," he said. "Obviously he is a bright player so it ended up back at my feet. I found myself in front of goal. I looked up and just had the goal glaring at me. I then had a bad touch but I have managed to dig it out of my feet and it has gone in the top corner. I have scored a couple of goals this year. Not as many as I would have liked but I think for West Ham that is right up there.
"It is obviously nice to score but what was even more pleasing was the performance as a team and the three points. I think the whole team stepped up. We have had a good run the last five or six games and we have really grown as a team together. Obviously being skipper is just a great feeling. I am actually becoming one of the more senior players out there now, the boys are getting younger and younger and it is just nice to feel in charge - try and organise the team and do what I can really."
While Collison is proud to be captain of the reserves, he is clear that he wants nothing less than to build on his first-team experience and move on to the next level. He got an extended run-out as substitute against Arsenal on New Year's Day and was on the bench against Birmingham City last month. Having also seen Freddie Sears show what can be achieved in the weekend win against Blackburn Rovers, Collison is ready to make an impact himself.
"That is the main aim, to try and force my way into the first team. It is great to see Freddie Sears come in and have such a big impact on the first team. The boy has worked so hard this season. He has really deserved it and that is what we are all hoping to do really. Freddie was here [watching the reserves] and that just shows the person that he is. He hasn't let it get to him - he has come down to watch all his team-mates on a cold night at Bishop's Stortford."
The Wales Under-21 midfielder, who will be on international duty again next week in a key EURO qualifier away to Bosnia-Herzegovina, knows he faces stiff competition from the likes of Hayden Mullins, Scott Parker and Mark Noble. "The boys were all really good at the weekend. It is going to be hard to get in there. I will just keep my head down and keep working hard. Hopefully I will force my way on to the bench and then get out there. That is what I am looking to do."