Born: 11 May 1984, Southwark, England
Age in 2005: 20
Premier League Clubs: West Ham (2004-2007), Aston Villa (2007-2011), Bolton (2011-2012)
Wimbledon picked up Nigel ‘Non-Smoker’ Reo-Coker at the age of 12, but it wasn’t until they put him down again that he was able to realise his full potential.
He went on to score an astonishing six goals in 58 appearances for the club, and was promoted to captain of the first team aged just 20. This was enough for Harry Redknapp to roll down the window and scrabble around in his car’s filthy ashtray for some loose change. A deal was struck between Wimbledon and Portsmouth, and Reo-Coker would join Pompey at the start of the 2003/04 season.
This dream move was only to end in heartbreak for Nigel, though, as Portsmouth fell into crippling financial trouble the same year.
(Above: Reo-Coker places a Reo-ssuring hand on Frank Lampard's inner thigh.)
Instead, Alan Pardew took him to West Ham, and Nige made his debut in some League Cup game against Rotherham, where something happened and one of them won, or it was a draw.
His first goal, however, came in spectacular fashion at Wimbledon, where he paid tribute to the club that made him by smashing home the all-important fifth in a 5-0 drubbing. Clearly impressed by Reo-Coker’s ability to score under intense pressure, Pardew instantly handed him the captain’s armband.
But true glory was waiting just around the corner, nearly. The 2005/06 season saw Nigel lead his West Ham side to an FA Cup final against Liverpool, where he also provided the most memorable moment in what was a wholly uneventful 3-3 draw. Liverpool won on penalties, but not before fellow classic Matthew Etherington had played in Reo-Coker, who very nearly didn't miss.
(Above: Yes, that's an England shirt)
Undeterred by the cup final loss, Nigel would go on to miss many more times, scoring just 11 goals in total for the Hammers. However, his second campaign saw seismic change at Upton Park as Pardew was sacked halfway through the season, and West Ham caused dramatic controversy in the transfer market by signing some good players.
All of this clearly had an effect upon Reo-Coker, and fans were concerned for his health after the club narrowly avoided relegation on the last day. The midfielder had started inexplicably confusing himself with his fellow teammates, spending one interview at the end of 2006/07 utterly convinced that he was in fact Carlos Tevez.
"I made a promise to West Ham fans that I would keep this club in the Premier League and I have done that," he said.
(Above: Nigel Reo-Coker, not Carlos Tevez.)
Having struggled for first-team football during the second half of the campaign, he said he felt he’d been ‘hung out to dry’ by new boss Curbishley, and so parted ways with West Ham.
Once he’d fully dried off, Nigel Real-Good-Bloker joined Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa for £8.5m. Regularly in the starting lineup and putting in strong performances, he even stepped in to captain for one game at Anfield. Rumours circulated that usual skipper Gareth Barry had overslept, despite asking long-term sleeping partner Fabio Capello to set an alarm the night before.
It was on the September 18 2009 that controversy struck. One of the Premier League’s most memorable training ground bust-ups resulted in Martin O’Neill ‘ending up on the ground with Reo-Coker’. After rolling about down there for three days they rose, dusted themselves off and apologised. Football would never be the same again.
Nigel Reo-Coker made a mightily impressive 205 Premier League appearances, and multiple managers (and one Alan Pardew) recognised his leadership qualities. He has more than earned his place as the fifth name on this prestigious list.
Where is he now?
Rolling around with current MK Dons caretaker manager, Keith Millen.
What did he say?
"It was a superb dressing room to be in, we had the likes of John Carew and Steve Sidwell.”