Whether you love him or not Kevin Nolan has done a lot for West Ham in the short time he has been with the club. Last season he played a key role by scoring crucial goals and leading by example. This season he has picked up where he left off and stands head and shoulders above most of his colleagues. So far this term he is our most prolific goal scorer. Without his contribution, we would be in the mire.
He may not be the most skilful player at the club but he certainly is the most charismatic in my opinion. Whilst writing the aforementioned line, it got me thinking about where he ranks with our other captains down the years. My memories go back years and I am fortunate to have seen quite a few players captaining the Hammers. The first captain I can remember was the flamboyant Malcolm Alison. From what I can remember, he was a larger than life character who was more skilful with his mouth than his feet. As most of our older readers, will know he went on to become a successful manager.
The next captain I can remember is the late, great Bobby Moore. Now, he is my all time favourite player and I feel honoured to have seen him ply his trade at the Boleyn Ground. This was a man that truly led by example. He never got ruffled despite what the opposition did and said to him. He was the master of breaking up opposition attacks and then spraying a 30-yard or should I say 30-metre pass to the feet of one of our forwards thus putting the opposition immediately under pressure. He never lost his cool with his teammates and was always there to encourage and advise them in a quiet but effective way during the game. Bobby was respected by his teammates and opponents alike. Above all he was worshipped by the fans.
Then came the Hammers version of Captain Marvel, the one and only Billy Bonds our swashbuckling half back as they were known then. Billy may not have been as skilful as Bobby Moore but you can bet your bottom dollar that what he lacked in skill he made up in effort and commitment. Here was a man that never shirked a tackle but always tackled fairly, or fairly by the standards of the day. No ball was a lost cause and every 50/50 ball was his. I never ever knew him to be intimidated by anyone. Billy was a model professional. My only regret is that I never got the chance to see him pull on an England shirt. The nearest he got was sitting on the England bench as substitute. What a travesty of justice.
Next up was Alvin Martin another charismatic captain who also led by example. Alvin was a tough tackling centre back who commanded the defence magnificently. He played every game as if it was his last and his life depended on it. He was a scouser that the cockney fans took to their heart. He came to the club as a young boy and ended his career with us when his knees gave out. I can remember seeing him play against Alan Shearer in his heyday with Blackburn and although Alvin’s knees were troubling him, Shearer didn’t get a look in. Alvin is definitely of our all time greats.
The next captain of note was Julian Dicks. What can you say about him other than he gave 100% in every match and like Billy Bonds he never shirked a tackle. Sometimes he was a little hot headed which resulted in him picking up yellow and red cards. He was our second ever, greatest penalty taker. Ray Stewart being by far the best we ever had. Julian had two spells as captain and was the darling of the fans. He is a true legend.
We had a few captains here and there but the next one of note was Paolo Di Canio. Paolo was the first foreign club captain. Here was a man whereby losing was not in his vocabulary. He was one of the most talented players that ever wanted to play for the club. Notice I said wanted to play for the club, unlike Carlos Tevez and co. Paolo was not only skilful he was a proven goal scorer and would fight to the death. Like a quite a number of our fans, I would like to see him manage the Hammers in the not too distant future.
Since Paulo, we have never really had a captain with his heart and soul in the club; why does Matthew Upson spring to mind? That is up until now. I believe that Kevin Nolan falls into the category of leading by example. He gives his all in every game and never gives up until the final whistle. Whilst I do not believe that he falls into the category of the other captains I mentioned I do feel he must rank next in line to them.
This is my own view of where he ranks in the list of our all time great captains. We have a lot to thank him for since he joined our club. Writing this article made me think how blessed I have been to see some truly inspirational players and club captains.