Countdown To The Premiership

AFTER ending a long and arduous campaign on a glorious high at the Millennium Stadium, Nigel Reo-Coker and Marlon Harewood admit they can't wait for Premiership football to arrive at Upton Park next season.

Both experienced the pain of defeat against Crystal Palace in the play-off final last year and the mood couldn't have been more contrasting 12 months later as they celebrated promotion to the top flight amid scenes of pure joy at the Millennium Stadium.

For 21-year-old Nigel, who gave a true captain's performance in the centre of midfield against Preston, the victory in Cardiff marked the greatest day of his short career so far and, as he was quick to point out, a wonderful triumph for everyone connected with West Ham.

"It was a fantastic feeling to lift the trophy - a moment that will live with me forever," he said. "We've worked so hard to get promoted, the club has been to hell and back and this is the reward for everyone.

"Losing here last year was the worst feeling in the world but we learned from our mistakes and have put it right this time around. We got it right on the pitch but it's a team effort and there are a lot of people behind the scenes who have worked so hard and deserve this victory as much as the players.

"Everyone from Shirley the cook and Tim the chef to Eddie and Pete the kit-men - they are all part of this and I'm so pleased for the entire Club. This win could help to save people's jobs and it's just fantastic that we are back where we belong."

The England Under-21 international will now take on the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea for the first time in his career and it's clear he can't wait for the experience.

"It's been my dream to reach the Premiership and now I've done it. No-one will ever take away the fact that I've captained West Ham to promotion and that means so much to me.

"I've been through some tough times this season but I kept my faith and bounced back, and winning this Play-off Final is just a fantastic experience."

Meanwhile, Marlon, who finished the season as the Club's top goalscorer and top appearance holder, with 22 strikes in 54 competitive matches, admitted the players used the experience of last year's pain to spur them on to glory this time around.

"It's a great feeling, especially after the disappointment of last year," he said. "Before the game we walked into the exact same dressing-room and everyone said that there was no way we were going to come back in after the game with the same feeling as last year.

"We've had some ups and downs but the main thing is that we've come through and achieved our ambition of winning promotion.

"I had a taste of the Premiership early in my career with Nottingham Forest and I can't wait to experience it again. I'm so excited and so happy for everyone at the club, and it will be a fantastic feeling to play for West Ham against the very best."