Nigel Takes Pole Position

NIGEL Reo-Coker is set to return to captain the England Under-21s as they take on Poland at Hillsborough this evening.

The Hammers midfielder missed the 2-1 defeat to Austria at Elland Road after picking up a foot injury, but will be back in action for Peter Taylor's men this evening alongside team-mate Anton Ferdinand.

And with plenty of leadership experience behind him having captained West Ham United to Play-off Final victory last season, Nigel is hoping to lead the Under-21s through to next summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championships.

"Captaining your country is something very few people get to achieve," he said, "and it really is a great honour for me. You can't really put into words the sense of achievement, but it is a great responsibility and one I am very proud to have.

"I have always been told that I was a natural leader. I was captain of Wimbledon at the age of 19 and also the youngest captain in the First Division. It's something that has never really fazed me and I am very comfortable approaching the game as a captain.

"It's a side to the game that I really relish and I've always been that way out on the pitch, trying to encourage and help the players around me."

Both England and Germany are already assured of a place in the Play-offs, which will decide the teams to go through to next summer's European Championships.

However, that in no way detracts from the significance of this game to Peter Taylor's rising young England starlets.

"This is an important game," stressed Nigel. "We've had a really good run so far and the loss to Austria was a bit of a blow. We want to keep the momentum going and a good result against Poland will help our confidence going into the Play-offs.

"A positive result will have a good affect on the squad and that's what we're aiming for. There's no point dwelling on the last game. Every player knows the situation and it is up to us to put it right.

"There was a good crowd at Elland Road and hopefully we'll have another one at Hillsborough and we can put on a good display."

Peter Taylor is likely to resist the urge to experiment with his line-up for the visit of Poland. However, he must make one enforced change. Tottenham's Michael Dawson, who partnered Anton Ferdinand in the centre of defence against Austria, is out with a hamstring strain and will be replaced by Manchester City's Nedum Onuoha.