Nigel's Birthday To Remember

NIGEL Reo-Coker is hoping to celebrate in more ways than one on Saturday.

The midfielder turns 21 on the day of the Play-off semi final first leg against Ipswich, but forget the day marking his induction to manhood, for Nigel has already proved his maturity in Hammers colours.

So much so, that he has been handed the captain's armband in the absence of Teddy Sheringham and is hoping to lead the team out into a cauldron of atmosphere at the Boleyn Ground.

And the England Under-21 star is certainly relishing the added responsibility of skippering the Hammers.

"It's a great honour to be captain at West Ham United," he exclaimed. "I'm following in the footsteps of some famous names down the years. It's humbling, but makes me very proud and all I want to do is my best as a captain and player for the Club.

"Leading the team out at Upton Park is certainly something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

"The responsibilities of being captain tend to come quite naturally for me because I'm known for being quite vocal out on the pitch. It's something I've done from a very young age and it's just part of my natural game.

"People have often said that they admire that side of my game a lot and have told me never to lose it. Personally, I don't think I will because I've always tried to lead and inspire those around me when I'm on the pitch and I don't see myself ever changing that."

Should Nigel lead the team out at Upton Park on Saturday it will, without doubt, be his biggest assignment as captain so far in his career.

But the level-headed midfielder is unfazed by the prospect and insists the backing of the Upton Park faithful will play a huge part in helping the Hammers team through the occasion.

"We're extremely determined about Saturday's game," he explained. "We've been in this situation before and have got experience of the Play-off environment, which I'm sure will benefit the team this time around.

"But these are huge games with intense pressure and we're all looking forward to a huge atmosphere on Saturday. I think that will definitely play its part. We need to really take advantage of the home leg and if the crowd are behind us and we can get at the straight away then hopefully that will put them on the back foot.

"There has been massive excitement around the training ground this week. It's going to be a great semi-final. There's been a lot said about what happened to Ipswich last season and how it will make them more determined, but we're not taking too much notice about that.

"We just want to concentrate on what we're trying to do and make sure we're prepared and focused on the day.

"We have a job to do for ourselves, the Club and most importantly the fans. That's all we're thinking about at the moment."