NRC - my vitriol

Any time now, no doubt, the message boards will fill up with vitriol against Nigel Reo-Coker for having the temerity to want to take his footballing career elsewhere. He will join the gallery of rogues alongside Paul Ince, Frank Lampard and Jermain Defoe; players we love to hate and who’s every return to Upton Park will be guaranteed to be ‘warm’.

Can I make what will admittedly be a pointless plea? Leave him alone; even give him a cheer and a hand to remember the good times because if you are honest with yourself, there were good times.

I have met many sportsmen and actors in my time and one thing unites them - they are heroically self-centred. It is just the way they are. All conversation invariably returns to either (a) their enormous talent (b) bitterness towards those who would deny the true worth of their enormous talent; it is just the way it is in careers where you live and die in the court of opinion.

Many football fans, especially the 40-something's upwards, will wistfully remember the days when players had loyalty to the club(s) they served. When the team that turned out was essentially locally reared. It hardly needs mentioning that those days, if they ever truly existed, have long gone.

Footballers today are no more or less 'loyal' than they were years ago. The difference between now and then is that they have so many more options to pursue.

Even the best footballers in the world will one day find themselves on the footballing scrap heap and if in recompense the industry offers such stratospheric rewards to the pick of the bunch, who can deny any professional the chance to have a shot at the big time.

Nigel may well fall flat on his face (and I must admit I'd probably have a wry smile to myself if he did) but look at it from his perspective. He's been one of the youngest captains in the Premier League, captain of England under-21s and attracted interest from Manchester United and Arsenal - or at least he believes so.

I don't suppose too many West Ham fans felt sorry for Wimbledon / MK Dons when we took him off their hands. Had Nigel and a few others from that team stuck around, MK Dons would not now be plumbing the depths of the nationwide leagues.

It is true that he appeared to lose motivation this season but to what extent that was wilful and indolent or just the grumps associated with a dip in personal and team form I do not know, and while there are many rumours doing the rounds about the internal politics of West Ham this season, I have not read anything definitive about who and what was behind it. Still less anything credibly linking the awful events of September to March to NRC.

Also as much as Tevez was the star of the great escape, Nigel played his part too.

I do not happen to think that he will rise much higher or make his mark in the big four ( if that is where he is bound) or even the England seniors. I'm no expert but it seems to me he lacks a decent first touch, doesn't score often enough and he does not have the range of passing associated with a top class midfielder.

Ok, I'll be realistic; engaging, or not, with personalities is part and parcel of sport. It is often the reason in the first place we are drawn to supporting a particular team, or indeed the factor that sparks our interest in a sport ( Tiger Woods; golf, Flintoff; cricket etc) Nigel, to my mind, lacks a certain charisma. He's a player that will at best be liked but never loved.

But that does not mean he is anymore disloyal or inappropriately ambitious than others who have gone before him. Would Rio have stuck around forever if we had said 'pretty please? No he would not. And the same was true for those former players and now 'Uber' fans, the two Tonys; Cottee and Gale.

Let's remember Nigel played a full part in the team that was rebuilt in the Championship; the team that took us to promotion and to a whisker of an FA Cup victory.

As I recall he could hardly stand with all the effort expended against Liverpool in Cardiff and by and large his energy was his biggest single contribution to the team over the time he has been with us. I, for one, would like to say thanks and in the best tradition of theatre speak 'break a leg, son'.

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