Nigel's Winning Form

HAVING lost his place in the Hammers first-team at the start of 2005, Nigel Reo-Coker's return to form could hardly be more timely.

The 20-year-old former Wimbledon trainee has forced his way back into Alan Pardew's line-up and helped the Hammers stretch their unbeaten run to five games, which has included three straight victories against Wigan, Burnley and Coventry.

Looking back to his incisive best, Nigel is delighted to be back in the fold, and insists wins are what it's all about in West Ham United's final five games of the season.

"I've been through a difficult period recently," he confessed. "Coming in and out of the side was tough. But it was important for me to keep my character and professionalism through all that, and now I'm starting to bounce back.

"It was always going to be important for the team to finish on a high, and hopefully I can do the same on a personal level as well.

"Right now it's all about winning games and making sure that we are in those Play-off places come the end of the season.

"We really needed a good run and this bit of form has come at a good time. To start the run-in so well after the Easter break has given us the upper hand and now we need to make sure that we keep this run going."

As a former Wimbledon captain, Nigel knows the value of London derbies. But few are more competitive than the rivalry between West Ham and Millwall, and with so much to play for the players can expect a crackling atmosphere inside Upton Park on Saturday.

But far from feeling daunted by the task, Nigel insists that the players are relishing the challenge of such an intense fixture at this stage of the season.

"When you are playing with confidence I think you look forward to any game," insisted Nigel. "The Millwall game is going to be a massive match for the players and fans of both clubs.

"It's a big game that has come at a vital time of the season for us. But we'll just go out and concentrate on getting the three points. Winning games is what it's all about right now and we're just focusing on the next game and hopefully securing the next win."

Alan Pardew looks to have established an effective mix of youth and experience in the Hammers side of late, with the likes of Teddy Sheringham and Chris Powell playing alongside the youthful Mark Noble, Elliott Ward and Anton Ferdinand. As one of those young guns, Nigel insists that West Ham's policy to put ability ahead of age has paid off.

"I'm a great believer that age shouldn't be a factor in football," explained Nigel, who is the youngest player to ever captain West Ham United. "If you are good enough then it doesn't matter how old you are.

"Confidence is high at the moment after three straight wins. The squad is really together, there's a good bond amongst the lads at the moment and it couldn't have come at a more important time.

"We've got some very promising young players in the side, alongside some very experienced players who are great to have around.

"The young players, like Mark, Elliott and Anton, have come in and done very well. They're hungry, they want to prove themselves and I'm sure they'll continue to develop and improve in the first-team.

"Now we've got to keep this spirit together until the end of the season and concentrate on winning each game as it comes, starting with Millwall on Saturday."