When Nigel Reo-Coker left Bolton Wanderers following the club's relegation to the Championship, it left a very bitter taste in supporters' mouths. It wasn't the fact that he left, it was how he left. Before the dust even settled, Reo-Coker had activated the relegation release clause in his contract and was off to find (what he thought would be) greener pastures.
After floating around without a team from late May until October and claiming that multiple Premier League clubs were after him along with the likes of Napoli, NRC finally signed with then-bottom-of-the-Championship side Ipswich Town. He stayed with them until the January transfer window opened and, after not extending his initial three-month deal, was searching once again. There were rumors of Portland Timbers and Red Bull New York after him along with potential interest from Fulham but none of those came to pass. Then last week, Nigel Reo-Coker signed with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Major League Soccer just kicked off their 18th season on Saturday night and Reo-Coker was on the bench for Vancouver to start the match as they welcomed Toronto FC to BC Place. The match had more connections to Bolton Wanderers than just NRC's presence. Andy O'Brien, who spent four years and made 74 appearances for Bolton, went the whole 90 minutes. Former Cardiff City (among others) striker Robert Earnshaw made his debut for Toronto while local lad Richard Eckersley (born in Worsley and going through the Manchester United youth system) played the whole game for the visitors.
Reo-Coker would spend the whole of the first half on the bench but would get his debut as the second half began, entering the match in the 46th minute. Right from the off, NRC (who wore a daft "Reo C." on the back of his shirt) was involved and instantly became the on-field leader that he was for much of his time at Bolton Wanderers. He was aware and spoke to just about every member of the Whitecaps team. Then, when Gershon Koffie scored the game's only goal on 60 minutes (with a long ball from Andy O'Brien starting the move), you could see just how much it meant to NRC.
Reo-Coker would go on to complete 38 passes in the 45 minutes that he played, misplacing eight of the total 46.
You could tell that he was rusty and slightly off the pace but what mattered was that he cared and was largely committed. It will be an interesting road for Nigel Reo-Coker over the course of the 2013 MLS Season but it's one that will be interesting to follow.