In 2011, Kevin Nolan took the step down from Premier League Newcastle to us, the recently relegated West Ham United. For the season, we had a proven goalscorer; a passionate leader and perhaps most importantly a man who could control an often frustrated dressing room. A season of highs and lows ensued and an immense day for 40,000 West Ham fans at Wembley put the icing on the cake. Two years later, what’s changed?
Football is an ever-evolving game, Kevin Nolan is an ever-ageing footballer. The first season back saw Nolan net seven goals, taking home the top goalscorer award; 2013-14 saw Nolan once more score seven, winning the club’s top goalscorer award again. Yet, the majority of fans have called for the armband to be handed to East-End boy Mark Noble. Technically, the argument against Kevin Nolan has become a solid one, with his passing and first touch not his strengths (not uncommon in this current West Ham side, unfortunately). Who though can argue with a seven goal return from midfield in a mid-table side? It simply is not easily found in football nowadays. Perhaps a stronger argument can be found in his failure to on occasion stand up and be counted, a trait that many would argue is an absolute necessity for a captain. Red cards against both Liverpool and Fulham showed a generally immovable captain cracking under the pressure of a relegation scrap.
A player such as Mark Noble seems like the perfect captaincy contender, an academy boy who has supported the club and been in and around the first team long enough to be able to cope with the different pressures surrounding the role. The number 16 covered more ground than any player in the Premier League last season and played such a key role in keeping the West Ham ship afloat. So why not? For one, why damage team morale by splitting a dressing room seeming to the outside to be gelling extremely well. In addition to this, reports from inside the club suggest that Mark Noble has become Kevin Nolan’s very own lap-cat, revelling in his role as vice-captain to a player and personality he evidently admires. Kevin Nolan has the support of his team-mates.
A happy dressing room will generally amount to stronger performances on the pitch, so why make the change now, when Kevin Nolan’s record shows that he does still have the quality to do a job in the Premier League. The captain has one more season, both as leader and as a West Ham player. The 2015-16 season will see the biggest change in the club for a number of years, as I, like many, expect to see Sam Allardyce depart the club and a new manager (Gus Poyet please) take charge. So for one more season, Kevin Nolan’s ability as captain will shine through and while this period in the club’s history will certainly not be remembered as the happiest, it certainly stands us in good stead for a strong future in our new home. Thank you Kevin.