Nigel Reo-Coker concedes he learned to appreciate West Ham the hard way

West Ham United's Nigel Reo Coker looks dejected

Nigel Reo-Coker had a fractured relationship with West Ham United fans and has admitted he didn't appreciate the club while he was there.

Nigel Reo Coker - West Ham UnitedFormer Hammers skipper Nigel Reo Coker

Reo-Coker came within minutes of eclipsing Hammers great Bobby Moore as the youngest captain in the club's history to lift the FA Cup.

Steven Gerrard stole that honour away from him, though, in that epic final against Liverpool back in 2006 and the rest as they say is history.

A firm favourite with Hammers fans, Reo-Coker enjoyed a memorable three and a half years in East London.

But it ended somewhat acrimoniously as his relationship with the club's fans soured in the wake of suggestions from manager Alan Curbishley of a 'Baby Bentley Brigade' at the club during their fight against relegation.

Reo-Coker risked the wrath of supporters when he cupped his ear to the crowd after scoring at the Boleyn Ground.

He moved on to Aston Villa after the club's Great Escape was sealed by Carlos Tevez in 2007 and was booed on his return.

And in an interview with the, Reo-Coker - now 32 and without a club - has conceded he did not appreciate what he had at West Ham until he left.

West Ham United's Nigel Reo Coker looks dejectedDon't know what you've got 'til it's gone: Reo Coker now appreciates how big West Ham are

“I can say this now because I’ve been away for a few years and I’ve travelled around a bit and been to different places – I truly realise how big and special this club is," Reo-Coker told West Ham TV.

“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.”

The former midfielder's words will not be lost on West Ham fans who appreciate what he did for the club during his time there.

West Ham's Nigel Reo Coker celebrates the victoryReo Coker celebrates the play-off final victory

He was the club's brave young captain who helped lead them back to the Premier League under Alan Pardew and then onto a strong finish in the Premier League and that FA Cup final.

That season also saw West Ham qualify for what was then the UEFA Cup, although their stay in the competition was shortlived after a heavy two-legged defeat to Palermo.

Despite only being 32, Reo-Coker has been out of action for over a year after having his contract at Major League Soccer side Montreal Impact terminated by mutual consent in January 2016.

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