Welcome to Nigel Reo-Coker's latest entry on whufc.com, as the Hammers skipper presents his exclusive online diary...
Wednesday, April 12
A day-off today and, with two games in the space of two days coming up at the weekend, I stayed in and rested ahead of our return to training on Thursday. As anyone who reads this column will have gathered by now - I like to spend my time off doing absolutely nothing, and today was no exception! I watched a bit of TV, had a few games on the X-Box and made some phone-calls that I had to catch up on, but that was about it. In the evening, I watched the Middlesbrough v Charlton FA Cup quarter-final, to find out who we will be playing in the semi-final. It was quite an entertaining game and I didn't really have any preference as to who we might be facing at Villa Park. Perhaps it would have been nice to have a London derby with Charlton and see Chris Powell up against us, but in the end it was Middlesbrough who won through, and now the countdown to the semi-final is really starting.
Thursday, April 13
Back to training today but I didn't take part because of an ankle problem that needed treating. It was only a bit of bruising and swelling that I'd picked up against Chelsea, and isn't likely to keep me out of the game against Manchester City on Saturday, but as a precaution I missed training and had some treatment. It hasn't been too painful, but ankle injuries can take a bit of time to heal and it's easy to make them worse if you exert too much pressure, so the afternoon was spent resting again. Boring, I know, but with the amount of matches we've got coming up, I need all my energy and so have to conserve as much of it as I can!
Friday, April 14
The ankle felt a lot better this morning, so I returned to training and we had our usual day-before-a-match preparation, a team meeting first thing followed by team plays and set-pieces. With a game on Saturday and Monday, it was nothing too strenuous and at this stage of the season it is really just about keeping yourself sharp and ticking over. Tiredness does come into play when you have been playing week in, week out for eight months, but there is still so much to play for at the moment and mentally the lads are all very fresh and alert.
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Saturday, April 15
Home matchday, so followed my usual routine of getting to the ground for around 11.30am, pre-match meal and relaxation building up to kick-off. We were expecting a tough game against Manchester City - especially after we knocked them out of the FA Cup a few weeks ago - and it turned out that way. They are a physical team who have pace and power, and made it difficult for us today. Thankfully, we got an early goal through Shaun Newton - aka Gollum - and managed to hold on for the victory. City were perhaps a bit unlucky not to get back in to it, but Jimmy Walker made some fantastic saves and the defence were solid again. It was an important win for us after losing at Chelsea but we weren't out celebrating afterwards - with a game at Middlesbrough in just two days' time, it was a relaxing night at home in front of the telly.
Sunday, April 16
In training for 12pm ahead of tomorrow's game, and just had a light warm-down before flying up to Middlesbrough in the afternoon. Thankfully the flight was a lot better than our experience coming home from Manchester United a couple of weeks ago, although a few of the lads were a little bit edgy until we had touched down safely at the airport! After getting to our hotel, we had an evening meal together and then did our own thing. I was rooming with Hayden and we just relaxed watching TV, a programme called Everybody Hates Chris, which is very funny.
Monday, April 17
Had our usual away match preparation of breakfast, team meeting and pre-match before heading to the Riverside Stadium at about 1.00pm, for a game against the team we will be playing in the FA Cup semi-final in six days' time. A few of us were playing our second match in the space of 48 hours, so we perhaps weren't as fresh as we would have hoped to be, but looking at the chances we had, it was a match we could have won. It was a bit of a strange game, to be honest, and there seemed to be a weird atmosphere around the stadium - it felt a bit like a pre-season friendly. Obviously the fans had their minds on the semi-final and, although our supporters were great and really tried to lift the noise, the match didn't really get going. We were all really disappointed to lose 2-0, but the gaffer told us not to dwell on it for too long and the focus now is all on the semi-final.
Tuesday, April 18
A day-off, and after playing two games in two days, I was absolutely shattered so, yes, you've guessed it, I spent the whole day doing absolutely nothing! Just relaxed at home, watched TV and spoke to a few friends.
Wednesday, April 19
Back to training and our first day of preparation for the semi-final. We worked on a few different things and did mainly team-play, and afterwards had our big press day ahead of the game. I did a few bits and pieces with the media - I'm not sure who I was talking to but there were a load of microphones stuffed under my nose! I also did a photo-shoot with Carlsberg
We also heard the sad news that John Lyall had died the previous night. I didn't know John well, but I had met him a few months ago and he had some nice words to say to Anton and me. After Ron Greenwood's death just a couple of months ago, it's another sad day for the Club, and some of our back-room staff who have been working here since John Lyall was manager were very upset by the news. As players, we understand how much he meant to the supporters, and it would be a fitting tribute if we could go on to win the FA Cup this year in memory of John Lyall and Ron Greenwood.
Thursday, April 20
No training today, but the entire squad and coaching staff met up at a private cinema in central London for a presentation on our semi-final. It was put together by Niall Clark and Paul Smith, our ProZone guy, and lasted for about 40 minutes - looking back at our own season, what we can expect from Middlesbrough and how we will be approaching the game. It was a good exercise and made sure that we are focused on the job we need to do. Afterwards we all went for a meal at a restaurant called Hamburger Reunion, which, surprisingly, sells hamburgers! It was really nice, and gave the lads a good chance to spend some time together and get away from our usual routine. After that I came back to Upton Park to do an interview for Sky Sports previewing the semi-final, which went on for a while, so I got home quite late and spent the rest of the evening watching TV. With the semi-final just a few days away, the excitement is really starting to build now, and the lads are all desperate to get out there and give the supporters an FA Cup final to look forward to…
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