Ex-West Ham player Jack Collison on football and fatherhood

From Premiere League career to a year at home recovering from a knee injury, Jack Collison tells Annie Ridout about being a dad, counting Andy Carroll and Joe Cole as close friends and returning to the game…

Jack Collison lives in Milton Keynes with his fiancée Alex and two-year-old daughter Lucia, plays for Peterborough and runs a coaching school.

(This article was originally published in October 2015)

It was your childhood dream to be a footballer, were your parents supportive?
I was obsessed from a very early age. I lived in my various Chelsea kits and even used to take my football to bed with me most nights. I spent hours in the garden pretending I was a professional, scoring goals and dreaming of playing in the premier league. My parents were very supportive.

When did you think: wow, I’ve made it?
My old coach kit Carson always used to say you’re not a professional until you’ve played 50 games for the first team and that was always in my head. It was great to make my debut at Arsenal but it probably wasn’t until my second season with the first team that I actually classed myself as a first team player.

Following your knee injury – in 2009 – you had to take over a year out, how did you fill your days?
I was very fortunate I had a good support group around me. My day was mainly taken up with various machines to help my knee heal; I was so focused on returning.

For the first 10 weeks I spent 10 hours a day on a cpm machine, which basically bent my leg up and down. In between I read an awful lot of books, I attempted to learn Spanish (poorly) and watched plenty of the 2010 World Cup.

Did you worry you’d never play again?
Of course there are worries, and being such serious injuries there was always a chance I never would kick a ball again. But I was so focused on making a return I always believed I would make it back out there doing what I love.

Being injured is very lonely at times, and often other players who have experienced long-term injuries understand about the dark days. It’s always good having experienced people around you who know how much just a text could turn your whole day around.

I’m very fortunate I have made some lifelong friends in football – like Andy Carroll and Joe Cole – who have always been there to pick me up and help me through and give me advice.

I’m really enjoying being in and around the football environment again. The day-to-day banter and feeling part of a team is something I really missed

How did you juggle a demanding Premier League career with a young baby and wife to look after?
I was very lucky to have a supportive fiancée who understood the demands of playing football at a high level. She took the main brunt of the horrible stuff (night feeds) etc, which meant when I arrived home from work I could have the fun time.

Being a footballer often meant I was home earlier than most people out there working 9-5. My fiancée understands that rest is important for any athlete but at the same time I try to be as hands on as I possibly can so it’s always a juggling act, but one that we enjoy.

jack collison - theearlyhour.com

Has this turn in your career allowed you to spend more time with your family?
I spent a year out of the game completely which was a bit of a shock to the system as I have been in football since the age of 16. Of course the extra time at home was fantastic and I love every minute I spend with my daughter and fiancée. I kept myself busy by taking on a university degree, setting up the Jack Collison soccer school and continuing with my coaching badges.

What do you find most challenging about fatherhood?
I absolutely love being a father. I would say my weakest point is my discipline, the missus often tells me off for turning everything into a bit of a joke. It’s something I’m trying to work on but it’s hard as I’m a big kid at heart.

And what do you enjoy most about being a dad?
Watching my little one progress and grow. It’s amazing how the little things make you feel so proud. An example would be the potty training, I never thought I would get excited just because Lucia has finally worked out how to go to the toilet on the potty. I love hearing her laugh as well.

What does an average day look like for you and your family?
My job is so unpredictable and so is Alex’s, as she’s a fitness and commercial model so her work is very all or nothing. We tend to take it day by day and try to keep Lucia’s routine as normal as possible.

Lucia is normally up around 7 and in bed by 7, in between is a lottery, we share the load as much as possible. I definitely think I’m the better cook.

I never thought I would get excited just because Lucia has finally worked out how to go to the toilet on the potty

What’s an ideal weekend for you and your family?
Just spending time together as our lives are very hectic throughout the week. I tend to enjoy the simple things, whether it’s going down the park or running about after the little one down the soft play. It’s nice just having time all together as a family.

Now you’re playing for Peterborough, how are you finding it?
I’m really enjoying being in and around the football environment again. The day-to-day banter and feeling part of a team is something I really missed. It’s a fantastic club with a squad full of talent, so hopefully we will have a successful season this year.

What’s your proudest moment, career-wise?
I have a couple: making my debuts (Wales and West Ham), scoring my first goal (v Everton), but the one that stands out for me was probably winning promotion at Wembley back to the Premier League with West Ham. I played a big part scoring in the semifinals. So winning at Wembley and going up the famous steps afterwards in front of 80,000 was something quite special.

And what’s the dream for your working life?
I would like to take my playing career as far as possible and play at the highest level I possibly can before I have to call it a day. I would also like to step into management one day, but I see this as a long way off at the moment. I’m very involved with my soccer school and hope to see that become the biggest of its kind in the country.

What hopes do you have for Lucia?
I just want her to be happy and know that she is loved.

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