English midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker was one of a special and privileged few to wear the captain’s armband in the colours of Claret & Blue, representing the club between the years of 2004 to 2007.
But, why did his West Ham United career end on such unhappy terms? What did he go onto achieve after departing the Boleyn Ground? And more importantly, where is he now?
The soon to be Premier League star was born in Southwark in London in 1984 and always dreamed of being a footballer, moving to Sierra Leone as a child and then back to England.
As he progressed into his teenage years, his talent was spotted while playing for local teams and he was signed up by Wimbledon, then of the Football League First Division.
Here, Reo-Coker swiftly moved through the ranks up to the first-team and even captained the side through a tricky period, their final years before becoming Milton Keynes Dons.
This was until Alan Pardew decided to take the youngster to Upton Park, making the move in January 2004, a signing that the new manager believed would help the club to gain a swift promotion back to the promised land of the Premiership.
Ironically, the Londoners’ first Hammers goal came against the Wombles, the club from which he had just arrived, he added another in a thrashing of Crewe just a few days later.
But, the former England U21 International’s presence couldn’t guide the Irons to the Top-Flight, failing in their first attempt by losing in the Play-Off Final to Crystal Palace.
However, almost a year later to the day, they were successful in regaining promotion, this time overcoming Preston North End in the Paly-Offs, also at the Millennium Stadium.
Coker made a staggering 47 appearances in all competitions during 2004/2005, playing a pivotal role in achieving the objective, he was heading to the Premier League for the first time as a player.
By the start of the 2005/2006 season, the East Londoners were still riding the promotion wave and Reo-Coker was able to net in his first ever match in the division, a 3-1 home besting of Blackburn Rovers.
He followed this up with four more, the most famous of those coming in a rare win on the road over Arsenal at Highbury, it was a successful season for him and his team as they finished comfortably inside the top half.
Although there was something much greater waiting at the end of it, for the third consecutive year in May, West Ham were heading to the Millennium Stadium, this time to contest the FA Cup final with Liverpool.
The attack-minded midfielder started that day and suffered heartbreak, with the Reds triumphing on penalties, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat late on.
The result hit the Hammers camp hard and would be the start of even tougher times that laid ahead during the 2006/2007 season, a tricky time for everyone involved in the East of the Capital.
Coker’s loss of form coincided with the team’s loss of form and before they knew it, the club were embroiled deep in a relegation battle, leading to the sacking of Pardew.
The news was welcomed by the star, who had fallen out of favour in E13, Alan Curbishley, his replacement, reinstated belief in the whole outfit, with the East London team beating the odds to survive.
Despite the end of season jubilation, this would be the end of the road for Coker in East London, as the ownership of the club couldn’t guarantee his future and he handed in a transfer request.
There were plenty of potential suitors for the central man, who was reaching the pinnacle of his powers, in the end, Aston Villa paid around £8 million for his signature and he was off to Villa Park.
Much like in a similar Claret & Blue the year before, Reo-Coker played European football under Martin O’Neill in the Midlands, enjoying a strong four years with the team.
Although the arrival of Gerard Houllier unsettled him, he would leave in summer 2011 to respectful reactions from fans, who had watched Coker captain their team on several occasions.
Bolton Wanderers under the guidance of Owen Coyle was to be his next destination, though he couldn’t save them from relegation back to the Championship, subsequently terminating his contract a year later.
Now approaching his 30s, the Englishman’s powers were beginning to fade, hooking up with Ipswich Town in the second tier of English football, a spell that only lasted mere months.
In winter 2013, Coker sought a move to the MLS to play out his twilight years, enjoying some fruitful times with the likes of Vancouver Whitecaps, Chivas and Montreal Impact, though he could never properly settle.
Without wishing to retire, Reo was close to joining Tony Adams’ Granada at the back end of last season, instead settling for Norwegian team IK Start, who ripped up his contract under two months after he had joined.
Nowadays, at the age of 33, the veteran is still searching for a club, being linked with several non-League outfits, but not confirming anything with any of those as of yet.
Nigel Reo-Coker will always have a special place in the hearts of West Ham United fans, a loyal servant, a veteran of unbelievable ups and downs, an ex-captain and a man that they have surely not heard the last of.