Beating The Odds

WEST Ham United certainly proved a few doubters wrong with their Play-off Final victory over Preston.

It became a source of tremendous motivation for Alan Pardew's team over the final weeks of the season to prove wrong those critics who said they were not equipped to bring Premiership football back to Upton Park.

For the Club's young captain, Nigel Reo-Coker, the Play-off Final victory was a crowning achievement of his blossoming career.

And now the 21-year-old midfielder is determined to help West Ham United prove their point in the top-flight.

"We certainly managed to prove a few people wrong at the end of the season," admitted Nigel, who is currently on duty with the England Under-20 team in France. "It was a fantastic feeling to win promotion for the Club and as captain it was a great moment in my career.

"It's difficult to put your finger on exactly what changed for us over the final games of the season. The team spirit was always really strong, but suddenly it just clicked into place, we were all pulling together as a team and the wins started to come.

"Ever since I started playing football reaching the Premier League was always my dream. Achieving it was fantastic, but now we're already concentrating on the Premier League.

"We'll come back from our summer break ready to take on the top-flight. Already the lads are looking forward to the start of the season."

For Nigel, a much-heralded midfield leader ever since he was handed the Wimbledon captaincy as a 19-year-old, the Premier League breakthrough will be the culmination of years of hard work.

A popular and well-respected member of the squad, Nigel's character was certainly tested earlier in the season when he found himself left out of the side.

In typically determined fashion, Nigel hit back emphatically, taking over the captain's armband and leading his team all the way to promotion.

"I was unhappy not to be playing earlier in the season," he confessed, "but I didn't let it get to me. I just kept my head down, worked harder at my game and made sure that when my chance came I took it.

"That's part of my character, it's how I've always handled those kind of set-backs. I didn't worry about it because I knew that if I kept working hard then it would come.

"It's an honour to be captain of a massive club like West Ham United, but at the end of the day, you can't let the task overawe you.

"To lead the team in Cardiff was a huge moment and the celebrations were incredible. But when we get back to pre-season we've got to get on with preparing for the task of keeping the club in the Premier League."

For Nigel it will be his first time competing in the top-flight, but the young star is not fazed by the prospect.

"It'll be my first time in the Premiership, but I've got nothing to prove," he insisted. "I'll just go out next season, enjoy it and let my football do the talking.

"We didn't go through all the pain and joy of last season and the Play-offs to come straight back down.

"We proved a few people wrong last season and we can do it again in the Premiership."