Captain's Log - Mar 18-24

Welcome to Nigel Reo-Coker's latest entry on, as the Hammers skipper presents his exclusive online diary...

Saturday, March 18
A home matchday against Portsmouth, so my usual routine of getting up at around 9.30am and heading to Upton Park for 11. After Wednesday night's extra-time win against Bolton in the FA Cup, quite a few of the lads were still carrying some tiredness and, with the quarter-final against Manchester City to come on Monday, the gaffer announced that he would be making a few changes to the starting line-up. As it turned out, only three players who had played on Wednesday - Deano, Hayden and Matty - ended up not being involved in the game, so it wasn't as weakened as some people suggested. The fact that we lost 4-2 to Portsmouth was simply because we just didn't play well as a team and didn't defend well enough in all areas of the pitch. Personally, I was still trying to get back to my best after the illness I had suffered, and I found it difficult to reach the stamina levels I normally find during a game. After the game, I had a meal in the player's lounge and then went straight home to bed. I was so tired I didn't even stay up for Match of the Day - not that it would have made enjoyable viewing anyway!

Sunday, March 19
With the game at Manchester City tomorrow night, we were in for training this morning ahead of our flight up north in the afternoon. After playing yesterday, it was nothing too strenuous, just a light warm-down and a massage to recharge the batteries and get ready for what is probably the biggest game of our season so far.
We flew up to Manchester in the afternoon and, for the first time this season, Anton wasn't with us after picking up a groin injury against Portsmouth yesterday. He was very disappointed to be missing the FA Cup quarter-final and it's a big blow for the team but we've just got to deal with it and focus on the job in hand.
We had our evening meal when we got to hotel and then did our own thing for the rest of the evening - I watched a film, Doom, an old computer game converted into a film. It can get pretty boring staying in hotels for away matches - especially when you've got more than a 24-hour wait until kick-off, but I suppose you get used to it. I room with Hayden Mullins and we tend to spend our time just relaxing, watching TV or listening to music. Tonight we were staying in a really nice hotel in Cheshire, so it wasn't too bad - if the hotel is luxury then it is easier to relax!

Monday, March 20
The morning of the game, so got up and had a light breakfast before our team meeting at the hotel. We then had a very light warm-up session on the pitch at the hotel grounds, walking through set-pieces and finalising our team play. It was then our usual pre-match build-up - lunch, rest in the afternoon, and pre-match meal before leaving the hotel at around 5.30pm to head to the stadium.
Manchester City's stadium is fantastic, one of the best in the Premiership and the atmosphere was electric, especially just before kick-off. It's one of those things you just can't put into words - the feeling really lifts you. We went on to put in a great team performance and fully deserved our place in the semi-final.
Once again, our fans were fantastic - it was great occasion for them, but to make that trip on a Monday night for a game that was on TV shows how committed they are, and without their support, we wouldn't have won the game.
Afterwards, Anton text me to say well done, then it was on to the plane for our flight home. We didn't get back until two in the morning, so it was straight to bed and - like most of our fans - dreaming about the FA Cup semi-finals!

Tuesday, March 21
Following our busy weekend, the gaffer gave us a couple of days off, and I did absolutely nothing - just stayed in all day long. To be honest, I still haven't felt completely right since my illness, I think it will take a while to get out of my system and to build my strength and fitness up to the level it was at before. That's why I decided to spend the entire day relaxing at home - the first chance I'd had to do that since returning to action. In the evening, I watched a bit of the Birmingham v Liverpool cup quarter-final, but it was over by half-time and it's clear that Liverpool will be one of the big favourites to win the competition. They look in awesome form at the moment and to score seven goals against anyone shows how dangerous they are.

Wednesday, March 22
Another day off, and it gave me a chance to take care of some meetings I had to attend in central London - just financial bits and pieces with my agent that I had to get out of the way. On the way home I stopped off at the Jerk Centre in Thornton Heath - a Caribbean takeaway restaurant, to pick up some Jerk Chicken, rice and peas, before spending another evening relaxing in front of the TV. I watched the Chelsea v Newcastle cup game and, seeing our name alongside Chelsea and Liverpool means that the achievement of reaching the semi-finals is now really starting to sink in.

Thursday, March 23
Back to training today, and the lads were a bit stiff after two days off, so we did quite an intense session, involving some power work and high-tempo small-sided games.
In the afternoon, I went to an Adidas +10 function at the David Beckham Academy, which is next to the Millennium Dome in Greenwich. The event was part of an Adidas campaign leading up to the World Cup, and all the superstars were there. Becks said hello to me and I also had some banter with Steven Gerrard and Djbril Cisse. They asked me who we fancied in the semi-final draw so I said to them: 'After what you lot did to Birmingham, you can take Chelsea and we'll have Charlton or Middlesbrough!'
I was at the event from 3pm to 9.30pm and it was basically like a big competition between all the Adidas-sponsored sportsmen. I was due to be on Ledley King's team, but as it turned out, Chris Kirkland couldn't make it and I had to captain his team. We did a thing where he rang me on the phone and asked me to take charge of his team, which meant that I had to wear a t-shirt with his name on! It was good fun, though, and I think it is going to be shown on Channel Four's T4 programme next weekend.

Friday, March 24
Our usual Friday training session the day before a match - team-meeting, set-pieces and some general team-play. The lads then came in to watch the FA Cup semi-final draw on TV at lunchtime. Of course, we were pleased with the way it turned out - and I think Charlton and Middlesbrough will feel the same way - but whoever we face, we will show them respect. Everyone has earned the right to get to this stage and it will be an extremely tough match with so much at stake. I don't mind who we play, but it would be nice to set up a London derby with Charlton and see Chris Powell again. It's just a fantastic position to be in now - something none of us believed we could achieve in our first season in the Premiership. It's down to us now - we've got to grab our opportunity, and the magic of the FA Cup is that anything can happen. If we get to the final, I don't see us as underdogs, and I know we would give Chelsea or Liverpool a very tough game.
On Friday afternoon, we flew up to Manchester for the second time this week ahead of our game at Wigan tomorrow and, with so much to look forward to, the mood among the players was really positive on Friday evening.

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