Date: 1st November 2010 at 8:08am
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Daniel Grigg says ‘ Captain unfantastic- Nigel Reo-Coker struggles in derby

This weekend’s match against Birmingham proved to anyone who didn’t already know why Nigel Reo-Coker is simply not captain material.

The former West Ham midfielder had probably the luckiest day of his football career, on a day where he could have easily ended up sat in the dressing room having been sent off, while captaining a team heading for 1-0 home defeat against their big local rivals. In the first half, Reo-Coker’s handball should by all justifications have been a handball, but he was fortunate enough that World Cup winning referee Howard Webb did not see it clearly.

In the second half, for some reason he let the situation get the better of him, not something which is great to see from a captain let alone from any player in a Premier League team, when he gave a frustrated kick out at former Villa midfielder and teammate Craig Gardner, who was the away team’s most potent attacking force for much of the match. Again Howard Webb, showing the sort of leniency that could well start to cost him in the future if players begin to feel they can push their luck with him as referee, let Reo-Coker off with just a yellow card. The tackle was nowhere near as painful or reckless as the De Jong one on Xabi Alonso which Webb failed to give a red card for in the World Cup final, but it was still stupid and could well have cost Villa dearly had they been away from home or officiated by a stricter referee. A kick out in frustration on it’s own may not be enough to suggest stripping the captaincy off a player just days after he’s been given it, but the captain’s reaction to the final whistle and the way he was steaming around the pitch looking for someone to argue with, without counting his blessing at getting a point and no three game suspension, isn’t a great sign for a team who desperately need leadership to repeat the league performances of recent seasons.

They need someone to tell Ashley Young to get more involved for example, with the undoubted ability the former Watford player has when he’s in full swing. Yet, is Young really going to listen to Reo-Coker, who has at times been accused of taking his own foot off the pedal in the past? I’d suggest that the obvious and more sensible choice, former Manchester City captain Richard Dunne, should have been given the role. He’d be in a far better position to bark orders at his teammates than Reo-Coker, who despite a decent start to the this season when he’s probably outplayed Stiliyan Petrov in the centre of midfield, still has a lot to do to prove he can turn his own career around, let alone Villa’s season. Houllier has loaded Nigel Reo-Coker with too much responsibility before he’s ready and I hope it doesn’t prove counter productive, considering how much the club are already relying on him, with Petrov now out until Christmas.

Daniel Grigg