Jack Collison’s career may have been sadly cut short by injury, but the midfielder still enjoyed his fair share of unforgettable moments in a Claret and Blue shirt.
Arguably the Welshman’s most-influential performance for West Ham United came in one of the biggest of the 121 matches he played in for the Club on this day in 2012.
After suffering the disappointment of relegation the previous season, Sam Allardyce’s side had finished third in the Championship table in 2011/12, meaning they would have to negotiate the perilous Play-Offs if they were to regain their place in the Premier League.
The Hammers had finished eleven points above semi-final opponents Cardiff City in the regular season, but the Bluebirds had beaten them 1-0 at the Boleyn Ground on the opening day of the campaign.
West Ham had won 2-0 at the Cardiff City Stadium in March to avenge that defeat, with goals from Kevin Nolan and George McCartney, and confidence was high as Big Sam and his squad returned to South Wales.
On the night, I went back to Wales to a stadium I’d played at for my country and to set us on our way with two goals was just great
Among the players who made the trip was Collison, who had battled through injury and suspension to play 31 times in the Championship, scoring four goals and impressing with his eye-catching technique and vision.
The No10 rose to the occasion in the stadium where he had featured for Wales against Costa Rica a few weeks previously, scoring both goals as West Ham took a giant step towards reaching the final.
Collison’s first goal came inside nine minutes. Ricardo Vaz Te crossed and although David Marshall saved his initial effort, the midfielder nodded home at the second attempt.
Then, four minutes before half-time, a corner was cleared as far as the Hammer on the edge of the penalty area and his shot was deflected into the Cardiff net.
Looking back on that memorable evening six years on, the 29-year-old is proud of the part he played in helping West Ham get back to where they belonged.
“It was a really enjoyable season, overall,” he said. “We were obviously disappointed to be in the Championship, but the squad and characters in it meant we really enjoyed it that year.
“We wanted to win the league and be promoted automatically, but in hindsight it was more fun to go through the Play-Offs and the fans had a couple of extra games to enjoy!
“On a personal note, it was the best season of my career in terms of appearances and goals and I felt I had my biggest influence on the team in a West Ham shirt.
“On the night, I went back to Wales to a stadium I’d played at for my country and to set us on our way with two goals was just great.
“I felt really good that night and really confident and to score the first one so early, even if I made a bit of a mess of it by having my initial shot saved from Ricardo Vaz Te’s great pass before heading in the rebound from about a yard, calmed us down and gave us a real boost.
“For my second one, the ball came out and dropped and Matty Taylor said ‘Shoot!’ and I did. It got a little deflection but I think it was going in anyway.
“The win set us on our way to getting to Wembley, which was incredible.”
At Wembley, with Collison in the starting XI, Carlton Cole and Ricardo Vaz Te scored the goals as West Ham beat Blackpool 2-1 to secure promotion.