5:34pm Tuesday 18th December 2012
WALES international Jack Collison is looking “onwards and upwards” after making his first appearance since last season’s Championship play-off final.
The 24-year-old, who qualifies for Chris Coleman’s squad through his Gwent grandfather, has had to watch West Ham’s fine start to life back in the top flight from the sidelines due to a long-standing knee problem.
Collison, who last featured for the Hammers first team as they overcame Blackpool at Wembley back in May, stepped up his recovery from injury with the West Ham development squad at Norwich yesterday.
He came through 45 minutes of the 3-1 Barclays under-21 Premier League defeat and could not hide his delight at returning.
“It was great to be back out there again,” said Collison.
“I am obviously a little bit rusty, but I have ticked a box by completing 45 minutes and hopefully it will be onwards and upwards from there.
“I loved it. It was great to be playing football again, even though it was not the best conditions out there. I thought the boys did well and were unlucky to not to get a point out of it.”
Collison’s return is a welcome boost to the injury-hit Hammers, who are without the likes of Mohamed Diame, Ricardo Vaz Te and Yossi Benayoun.
He will not, though, pinpoint a date for his first-team return, focusing instead on continuing his rehabilitation.
“I will leave that for the manager to decide,” Collison said.
“I have obviously been out for quite a while so for me it is all about building up my fitness and getting that sharpness back.
“I am not sure whether the reserves will have any more games or have arranged any friendlies [before the Elite Group Stage starts in January] but I will be training more now so hopefully I can return as quickly as possible.”
Collison has suffered a string of knee problems that began with an initial injury in 2009.
He was sidelined for 14 months after surgery and only returned to action at the end of the 2010/11 season before aggrevating the injury again in May this year.
The news of his latest return will also be a boost for Wales boss Coleman, who has had to do without the midfielder throughout his reign as national manager.
“I'm delighted for Jack,” said Coleman.
“He’s had such a traumatic time with the injury.
“He’s still a good age Jack, it’s all in front of him he’s just got to try and get himself fit. He deserves to be back.”
Collison has not played for Wales since coming on as a substitute in the Gary Speed Memorial match against Costa Rica in February.
He could now be available for the friendly against Austria at Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium on Wednesday, February 6, next year.
Coleman’s men then resume their 2014 World Cup qualifing campaign with a trip to Scotland on March 22 before they host Croatia at the Liberty four days later.
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