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Page last updated at 18:11 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009

Young Collison hails Zola tuition

Venue: De Santo Sports Complex, Vila Real Date: Wednesday, 11 February Kick-off: 1715 GMT Coverage: Live on S4C, full commentary on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and online

Jack Collison
Jack Collison qualifies for Wales through his Welsh grandfather

Jack Collison says one-on-one tuition from football genius Gianfranco Zola has transformed him into a Premier League and international player.

The young Wales midfielder was almost sent on loan to Peterborough earlier this season but is now a regular for Zola's revived West Ham United.

"He has been doing one-on-one tuition with me and I'm learning from him all of the time," Collison told BBC Sport.

"There's no better player for me to learn from, he was one of the best."

Chelsea legend Zola, hailed as the most influential foreigner to grace the Premier League, has been linked to the vacant managerial post at Stamford Bridge after the sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari.

The Italian has transformed West Ham since taking over from Alan Curbishley in September and turned the Hammers, in his first job as a club manager, from a struggling side to one pushing for Europe.

Zola's sensational performances as a player affords him cult hero status among Chelsea fans.

Some Stamford Bridge faithful unfurled a banner during Chelsea's 0-0 draw with Hull on Saturday called for the installation as manager of the man voted by Chelsea supporters as their best-ever player.

But Collison, who was given his Premier League break by Zola, says the West Ham manager is also loved by those at Upton Park.

Gianfranco Zola
There's no better player for me to learn from than Gianfranco Zola, he was one of the best.

West Ham and Wales midfielder Jack Collison

Collison said: "Gianfranco going is the last thing anyone at West Ham wants.

"He has given us a confidence, he comes into training with a smile on his face and he wants us to enjoy playing football.

"Gianfranco has come in and put a real buzz into the place and no-one wants him to go, he is a really good young manager and things are going really well at West Ham at the moment.

"People maybe a little surprised by his impact at West Ham but he played at the very highest level and played under some top managers."

West Ham, currently eighth in the Premier League, have lost just once in nine games, and Collison's displays have been excellent.

He is the latest talented player to graduate from West Ham's self-styled 'Academy of Football', following current England stars Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole and Jermain Defoe.

Collison, 20, who has performed with a maturity in West Ham's midfield, has scored twice in 15 games for the Hammers this season.

And the Wales rookie, who is set to win his fourth international cap against Poland in Portugal, says his improvement is thanks to private training sessions with footballing master Zola.

"He is a really one-to-one, hands-on guy," said Collison.

"He identifies areas of players he wants to improve, with me he wanted to improve my technical areas and for me, what better player to learn from - he was one of the best.


"I have learned a lot from him, he is a top man and a top manager and has got all the boys playing well, and the future is bright at West Ham with him in change.

"I'm a little bit surprised to be a regular, as at a club like West Ham it is hard to break through.

"But I've managed to keep my place and want to push on."

Collison now hopes to cement his place in John Toshack's Wales midfield in their friendly with Poland in Portugal with fellow youngsters Aaron Ramsey, Joe Ledley and David Edwards.

"We've got a very young midfield and a very young team," acknowledged Collison.

"Us young players have no fear and now we hope to repay his faith."

Toshack's 23-man squad features 11 players under the age of 21, including Gareth Bale, Chris Gunter, Sam Vokes, Ched Evans and Rhys Williams.

Wales squad for Poland game on 11 February:
Wayne Hennessey (Wolves), Boaz Myhill (Hull City), Owain Fon Williams (Stockport), Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur), Neal Eardley (Oldham Athletic), Chris Gunter (Tottenham Hotspur), Lewin Nyatanga (Derby County), Rhys Williams (Middlesbrough), Sam Ricketts (Hull City), Ashley Williams (Swansea City), Jack Collison (West Ham United), Andrew Crofts (Peterborough United), David Edwards (Wolves), Carl Fletcher (Crystal Palace), Owain Tudur Jones (Swansea City), Joe Ledley (Cardiff City), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), David Vaughan (Blackpool), Craig Bellamy (Manchester City), David Cotterill (Sheffield United), Ched Evans (Manchester City), Sam Vokes (Wolves)

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see also
Wales fear Bellamy injury absence
09 Feb 09 |  Internationals
Chelsea warned off Zola & Clarke
09 Feb 09 |  West Ham
Scolari sacked as Chelsea manager
09 Feb 09 |  Chelsea
West Ham unveil Zola as new boss
11 Sep 08 |  West Ham
Collison savours Wales experience
23 Nov 08 |  Internationals
Wales young gun Collison primed
18 Nov 08 |  Internationals
Pick your Wales XI
05 Feb 07 |  Internationals
Wales' international fixtures
22 Aug 07 |  Internationals
Wales' results archive
10 Oct 05 |  Internationals
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Feb 09 |  Wales

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