Thanks Jack and good luck...once a Hammer, always a Hammer

Jack Collison's retirement announcement was not a shock, but it is extremely sad all the same. And West Ham should be eternally grateful to the 27 year-old.

It is not stretching a point too far to suggest that without Collison's efforts for the cause in those final weeks and days of our promotion season of 2011-12, West Ham may well not be in the healthy, emerging position we find ourselves now.

I have always held the belief that Jack played throughout those tense, demanding months when he really should not have been out on the pitch. But he battled on for our club.

He carried that ruined knee of his and fought to ensure we did not suffered another damaging season in the Championship. You only have to look at the state clubs like Nottingham Forest, Leeds, Portsmouth, Wolves, Derby etc have found themselves in because they failed to achieve immediate first season promotion.

Jack scored twice in the play-off semi-final away to Cardiff , he'd also scored a vital goal at Leicester to ensure a 2-1 away win a month earlier. Jack didn't complete the second leg, a convincing 3-0 victory, but played every second of the final at Wembley against Blackpool. Rarely that season did he start back-to-back matches, so bad was his injury. It used to annoy me when our fans used to dish out stick to him.

To the few people who knew just how bad Jack's knee injury was (yes Mr.Sullivan, that's what a player without knees actually looks like!) it was a miracle he played at all in those crunch matches. And that probably was the final nail in his long-term career.

Sam Allardyce knew how bad the injury was, and he tried to nurse him through that season. There can be no blame there, the damage had been done in the previous few years. I recall witnessing Jack suffer one of those shocking injuries at Wigan, and recalling how the home fans jeered and booed as he lay on the turf before being carried off. I am so glad Wigan are struggling now, probably never to return to the top flight.

I had a lot of dealings with Jack in my former life, more so when he was away on international duty with Wales. And he endeared himself to everyone that he met with his honesty, helpfulness and character.

I suppose it was on those trips that I became aware of just how bad his injuries were. One of which occurred on international duty. It was then that the FA of Wales doctors and physios got involved, and they were shocked at how bad that knee was.

They were frequently surprised that he was still able to play at first team level, and genuinely feared for his future. They left me in no doubt that his career was in serious doubt. One doctor even told me he didn't feel the lad would play again after one breakdown. And that was six or so years ago.

They say this sort of misfortune always hits those that deserve it least. A genuinely nice kid who would still be in our squad now if he had recovered and seen his career blossom.

This lad who played a vital cup tie for us a couple of days after his father had died in a motor cycle accident while on the way to watch his boy play. That's how much Jack cared about the Hammers.

I do hope that when he steps out for a cameo appearance in Mark Noble's testimonial on Easter Monday, the fans will give him the ovation he deserves.

I have just one little insight into the character of the lad. I was asked to produce a feature on Jack as he was about to embark, yet again, on a Wales comeback. My first call to his mobile ended with me leaving a message and my phone number on his answering machine., not really expecting to hear anything again, such is the unpleasant reputation of many young footballers I encountered.

I then went out for the day, and when I returned my wife said a footballer had rung, was very polite and apologised for not being in when I had phoned. When I had been brought round with smelling salts, my good lady said that he had left her with a couple of alternative times that I could ring him back.

Now in the real world of proper people who are not involved in the greedy, unpleasantness of professional football, that sort of polite behaviour is not unusual.

But I can never recall a player ever ringing me back, or being so helpful--and more to the point--very polite and nice to my missus. Footballers generally don't behave like that.

Now I have no doubts Collison will forge another career in football as a coach, even a manager, He is already finding work in the media and has been on TV recently. He has put himself through a media degree and opened his own soccer school.

I can only wish him well. And I can only thank him for wearing our shirt.

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