Reo-Coker – This Club is special
It's now almost eleven years since Nigel Reo-Coker came within seconds of eclipsing the great Bobby Moore as the youngest-ever captain to lift the FA Cup.
A fairly decent strike from a certain Steven Gerrard extinguished that particular dream on the eve of Reo-Coker's 22nd Birthday back in May 2006, in a final that went down in history as arguably the most thrilling of the modern era.
And just a year later, the powerful midfielder had switched the Claret and blue of West Ham United for that of Aston Villa.
From London to Birmingham, he then embarked upon adventures in Bolton, Ipswich, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Montreal, where the former England U21 skipper was last seen kicking a ball in anger during the early part of 2016.
Still just 32, though, Reo-Coker’s playing days are far from behind him, and he recently returned to England in the hope of rejuvenating a career that has so far yielded 382 senior appearances.
A full 13 years after he first arrived at Upton Park from Wimbledon as a teenage hopeful, the journey came full circle when he visited London Stadium for our Premier League clash against Manchester City. And when asked for his first impressions of the Club's new home, Nigel's answer was emphatic.
“It is amazing,” he said. “As I was walking up to the Stadium I could feel the tingles down my spine.
“I know what it means to play for this Club and I know how passionate the fans are. To be here now to experience this next phase in West Ham’s history is fantastic.
“It feels so long ago but I wish I could put my boots back on now and get back out there now!
“It’s what the Club deserves, to be honest. I can say this now because I’ve been away for a few years and I’ve travelled around a bit – I truly realise how big and special this Club is.
“To look around and know that this is West Ham’s home ground, that this is where players have the opportunity to show their ability…it’s what dreams are made of.”
For Nigel, the emotional return to the Club where he enjoyed three and a half eventful seasons provided an opportunity to reflect on a stage of his career that he admits being only now able to fully appreciate.
Appointed as captain by Alan Pardew in his first full season at the Club, Nigel led his colleagues to promotion from the Championship in 2005 and then played an integral part in that memorable first season back in the Premier League, culminating in that unforgettable clash against Liverpool at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. The pride he holds in those memories is clear.
“We had a great team then, and a great team spirit.” he said. “What we did in the few years I was here was fantastic. We had no fear. The dressing room was full of different characters and personalities.
“It’s the part of my career that has really stayed with me. It’s something that I’ve never forgotten and it’s something that I truly appreciate.
“Everywhere I go, I’m always remembered and recognised from my time at West Ham. There have been so many Hammers fans I have met worldwide, and that’s when you understand how big the fanbase is.”