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NRC: The Baby Bentley Boy

Nigel Reo-Coker has proven the stand out player for the Whitecaps in 2013 so far. But the player has had a wayward career to date and has struggled with his reputation since arriving onto the scene at a young age.

Michael Regan

I have to admit I wasn't overly excited when rumours began to surface that Nigel Reo-Coker could be heading to Vancouver. Living in England during most of Reo-Coker's time in the Premiership, I formed the opinion that he was a cocky so and so who had never reached his potential. I don't think I was alone in this opinion. Many football fans saw Reo-Coker as a decent midfielder with a bit of attitude, but not a player who would ever grace the Champions League.

It all started so well. I remember glowing reports of young Nigel when he broke through into the Wimbledon team at a young age, leading to a spot in the England U-21s. But he then suffered from playing with a struggling West Ham team, despite a host of big names in the squad. The manager at the time, Alan Pardew, labelled some of the squad the 'Baby Bentley' generation because of their obsession with fast cars and even faster women. Pardew implied that Reo-Coker et al did not have their full focus on the performances on the pitch. In my mind at least, Reo-Coker embodied this mentality of the young and privileged superstar.

So it is refreshing to see that my concerns and preconceptions have been proven utterly wrong. Reo-Coker has been the stand out player this season and shown the necessary leadership in the absence of De Merit. A few things show Reo-Coker's maturity and value to the team. Firstly, there is his surging runs from midfield, something Barry Robson did not do even half as much of. This is partly tactical, but also a sign of Reo-Coker's strength in riding a challenge unlike many other players in the league. One frustration with MLS is the whistle happy referees and the players who are looking for fouls (true of all football, but amplified in MLS). Reo-Coker has overcome this with his strength on the ball, allowing him to stay on his feet and continue his run. Secondly, Reo-Coker comes across as nothing like the 'Baby Bentley' boy of yesteryear. He has talked up some of the younger Whitecaps players (Teibert and Koffie in particular) in order to give them confidence and help them develop. Yet when it has been required he has also chastised the team in a manner suitable for a captain. No personal vendettas, just frustration with a lack of application in the team.

Nigel Reo-Coker cannot be accused of seeing out his playing days in the MLS and not caring about what the team are doing or where they are heading. So you can add this article to the growing stack of pro-NRC articles. I, for one, am happy to be proved wrong in this case. I just need to find out whether Nigel has visited the Bentley dealership in Vancouver first.