Nigel ready to rise to the occasion

Nigel Reo-Coker leads West Ham United into their first taste of competitive action on European soil since 1999 tonight, declaring that Hammers are determined to keep their UEFA Cup dreams alive.

"This competition really does matter to us," says the club captain ahead of the clash in Palermo. "We had to work hard to qualify, this place wasn't given to us and we are taking it very seriously, indeed.

"Already, it's been a fantastic experience for our young squad and now we want to go all the way because this is a great opportunity to achieve something and create history."

But with Hammers trailing 1-0 from the first leg at Upton Park, the skipper readily acknowledges that a difficult Italian job lies ahead.

"It is going to be a big task tonight," he admits. "Palermo are a very good side, who are currently sitting third in Serie A and it's not going to be easy, but we believe that we are more than capable of handling them.

"And I think that it's way too early to be panicking about our recent form, too," he concludes as he looks to wipe the slate clean following a hat-trick of unwelcome defeats. "To a certain degree we have become victims of our own success from last season, when we achieved a tremendous lot which, at first, we didn't believe we could.

"This season was always going to be much more difficult because teams have a bit more respect for us, but if you are going to prove that you're a great player, then you have to be able to handle situations like this and tonight it is going to be all about stepping up our game and rising to the occasion."