On the surface, Nigel Reo-Coker is every inch the typical Premiership footballer - immaculately dressed, the owner of a flash car and with a smile as sparkling as his diamonds.

But under the surface the 23-year-old is anything but the archetypal player - he dislikes the spotlight and is more likely to be found on a golf course or with his head in one of his many philosophy books than in a nightclub.

And despite the fact that his name is emblazoned on the back of the replica shirt of many a young Aston Villa fan, Reo-Coker insists he is no superstar - instead, he is quite happy to be considered one of the engine-room players of the team.

The former England Under-21 captain claims he made a conscious decision to shun the bright lights of London to set up home in Birmingham after Martin O'Neill came calling to sign him in an #8.5 million move from West Ham United.

And while other players might crave life and a career in the big city, as far as Reo-Coker is concerned, his football will flourish far more away from London's distractions.

He said: "It was just an easy decision for me to move to Villa. It is great for a young player to get an opportunity like this and it is really nice to get away from London if you do take your football seriously."

Having spent an unhappy few months at Upton Park after disagreements with manager Alan Curbishley and the coaching staff, Reo-Coker says: "I had to get away. Some young players might need their family and friends around them to support them - they might need family ten or 15 minutes away, but I think I am a little bit more mature than that and realise the world is my oyster.

"My family are still only an hour-and-a-half away and they support me but they also know this is my occupation. It is what I want to do and what I love. It has been a breath of fresh air coming up here; I can come to Villa Park, do my work, train hard and then go home and just rest.

"Being here, it is all about football. There are fewer distractions here, fewer friends calling on me and suggesting we go out and do this or do that.

"It is an individual thing whether players prefer London or Birmingham but for me it is all about being a professional - a professional footballer. For me, the move to Birmingham was an opportunity I couldn't turn down."

And he admits he doesn't miss the media spotlight which follows London-based players. At Villa, he has so far largely shunned the chance to talk to reporters preferring, he says, to let his football do the talking.

He said: "In London, there are a lot of events and a lot of promotions - a lot of things happening. It has been great for me to get out of the media's eye.

"I read stories that apparently this player has been at this nightclub and apparently done this or that. There is always stuff plastered on internet gossip columns. Of course, some people will read that story and believe everything they read without knowing the facts or the truth. I am happy now just to be focusing on the football and I am enjoying it."

Reo-Coker, who was born in Croydon but raised in Sierra Leone in West Africa for five years before returning to the United Kingdom, certainly did his homework before signing for Villa.

He said: "Coming to such a big club with such a great heritage and to play for one of the best managers in Europe, someone who is so well respected in the game, was an easy choice.

"I have always been a football fan so I always had a good idea about Villa. I have always known they are a big club and I have always been a big fan of Martin O'Neill."

The midfielder admits his parents had hoped he would follow the family and go to medical school and ultimately become a doctor. However, the young Reo-Coker was snapped up by Wimbledon, from where his career took off. He has been at Villa for only a couple of months but is already convinced he has made a life-changing move for the better.

He said: "It has been easy to settle here and I think all the new players feel they have settled well because they have been made to feel comfortable and part of the team.

"I believe the quicker that players are made to feel settled off the field, the quicker they settle on it, but I have also always put pressure on myself that it is up to me to settle. From the moment I knew I was coming to Villa, I had already put that pressure on myself to try to make the move as swiftly and as easily as possible.

"I didn't want people to be saying: "Give that player a year to settle." I was moving out of London and I made the decision to leave so it was up to me to get into the team as quickly as possible and I like to think I have done that."

And while the Villa faithful is already convinced O'Neill may have struck gold, the player himself is modest about his contributions.

He said: "It is always nice when fans recognise you and I am really grateful to the Villa fans for the way they have welcomed me.

"I am not a superstar. I am not a match-winner. The likes of Gareth Barry, Patrik Berger, Ashley Young, John Carew are match-winners and superstars. I am just going to try to play my part in the team.

"I like to be a leader and I think I have some leadership qualities. Gareth (Barry) is the captain but I still think there are qualities in me that I hope to bring to the fold.

"It is great if kids see me as some sort of idol but what I really want is kids to see that Nigel Reo-Coker tries. I am not the most talented player in the world and I have had to work hard to get where I am.

"I would like people to know that if they want something and they put their mind to it, then they can get where I am. It is how you apply yourself as a person and how much you want to do something that matters to me."