Manager a mentor for Collison

Jack Collison is with Wales preparing for the friendly with Denmark but will have the words of Gianfranco Zola not too far away from his mind.

The manager has taken a special interest in the development of the midfielder, who turned 20 this month, culminating in the chance to stake a first-team claim for West Ham United. Even before this run of four straight appearances, Zola has been careful to instil confidence in the youngster - for example, an extended one-to-one pre-match chat away to Hull City when Collison failed to make the bench.

"The manager has been brilliant with me," Collison said. "He has given me so much confidence and belief in my own ability. It is really nice that he allows me to go out there and play with freedom. Every minute on the pitch for me at the moment is a bonus. I am just learning all the time and really enjoying it."

Having scored on his senior home bow against Everton and then been one of the star performers in the weekend goalless draw with Portsmouth, Collison said nerves are not a factor - even if there is pressure to get results every time the team take the field. "Games like Portsmouth are where big players can step forward. I am pleased to do my bit for the team and we stopped the rot. We managed to keep a clean sheet and hopefully we can kick on."

It is the same approach with Wales, with Collison joining club-mates James Collins and Craig Bellamy in the senior set-up for the trip to Denmark. "That is the aim now to go away with Wales and keep it going. That would be great. I am going to try and kick on with the senior team and hopefully cement my place. It is a great time for Wales. Aaron Ramsey is on fire and he is a top player, Ginge has come back looking really strong and solid, Bellars is fully fit so things are really looking up for us."