Jack Collison eager to lead Atlanta United 2

Jack Collison is Atlanta United 2′s new coach. (Photo by Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United)
Jack Collison is Atlanta United 2′s new coach. (Photo by Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United)

Credit: Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United

Watching Jack Collison on Sunday when he manages his first game as Atlanta United 2′s new coach, he hopes that you will see elements of those who influenced him: Sam Allardyce and his attention to detail, Eddie Howe’s enthusiastic training sessions, and Gianfranco Zola’s humility and understanding that players are people first.

“I feel like I’m ready and knowing myself as a coach and how I envision the team playing and taking it forward,” he said.

Collison, 32, has worked a long time for this opportunity.

Realizing his professional career likely wouldn’t last long because of an issue with a knee, Collison began earning his coaching badges while he was playing. His career was highlighted by more than 100 appearances at West Ham, where he was managed by Allardyce and Zola. He was released by the club in 2014. After taking a year off from playing because of the knee, he signed with Peterborough United in 2015 to have one last go.

Because he loves being on the pitch, he also began managing the club’s Under-18 team during the week and the U-21 team on its match days.

“I don’t think anything can beat being out on the grass and working,” he said.

Realizing his playing career couldn’t continue, he retired at 26. Did he want to say goodbye to football or use that hurt?

“Now it’s that fire within me to be the best coach I can be,” he said. “I want to be one of the best head coaches in the world.”

Collison returned to West Ham, where he coached in its academy. He continued to work on his coaching badges, also known as licenses.

Collison joined Atlanta United as the U-17 manager in 2019.

“Jack has done a tremendous job with our Academy teams since joining the organization, and he will make a seamless transition to Atlanta United 2,” Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said in a statement from the club. “He’s quickly proven to have a bright future in the managerial world.”

The opportunity to manage Atlanta United 2 happened because interim manager Tony Annan resigned to take over as South Carolina’s men’s soccer coach.

It’s Collison’s first chance to manage a professional club.

The style of play that Collison is working the players toward should sound familiar. Fast-paced. Aggressive. Pressing, Counter-pressing. Intense. At the same time, Collison wants the players to feel free.

It also reflects his personality, which he describes as enthusiastic while on the sidelines. After Thursday’s training session, Collison was going back out at 1 p.m. to work with the players who wanted to do more.

A challenge of managing Atlanta United 2 is that the primary goal is the development of the players, and not the results of the games, according to club President Darren Eales. Collison’s primary focus during training sessions is about good habits. Moving correctly. Preparing correctly. Executing the tactics correctly.

Collison believes that the players will gain confidence if they are playing well, which will benefits their development.

“Hopefully it comes out right on the pitch without them thinking about it,” he said.