Vancouver switch suits fisherman's friend Nigel Reo Coker
NIGEL Reo-Coker quit Wanderers to try and prolong his Premier League career – but just over a year later the midfielder says he has rediscovered his passion for the game in the fresh air and clean living of Vancouver.
It came as a considerable blow to then-Whites boss Owen Coyle when his vice-captain opted to tear up his Reebok contract just a few days after the club’s relegation in 2012.
Reo-Coker was, at that point, confident of landing a deal back in the top flight, where he spent the majority of his playing career.
But offers proved thin on the ground and after a short and rather ill-fated spell at Ipswich he made a shock move to Vancouver Whitecaps, a relatively new franchise in the MLS who also boast former Wanderer Andy O’Brien.
Birmingham-based throughout his time at Bolton and a Londoner at heart – Reo-Coker admits there was a culture shock.
But now six months into his new adventure, the 29-year-old reckons he is starting to fit in nicely.
“Being in that culture with the English mentality, and playing in England all my career, now I am trying something new and I think you have to soak everything in,” he said.
“You have to take every day as it is and experience as much as possible. I have only been here for six months so far but it has been fantastic.”
The MLS is starting to gather serious momentum in the US, although the current salary structure still means most of the home-grown talent is forced to leave for Europe.
With greater public and corporate interest, however, things are gradually improving on the financial front and the last few years have seen some big players move in the opposite direction.
Although David Beckham set the trend, recognisable names such as Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, Tim Cahill and Obafemi Martins are now plying their trade in the US and Canada.
Reo-Coker believes the league’s increasing competitiveness will see more players arrive from UK shores in the future.
“It’s a lot more competitive than I expected – top to bottom are separated by eight points. And the one thing that is difficult here is to win away from home,” he said.
“I think more players will start to come over from England, and it is developing. It’s a great opportunity for players to get out of their comfort zone. Not many English players leave the country to go out there and experience things.”
While Beckham rubbed shoulders with the Hollywood glitterati during his spell in LA, life in and around the mountains of Vancouver is an altogether more wholesome lifestyle.
“I have taken up a lot of salmon fishing,” Reo-Coker revealed to the BBC Sport website. “It’s something I do a lot, being in Vancounver, and watching the salmon run is great.
“I am very good at it – and I’m still learning. I’ve made some fishermen friends and it’s great fun.”