After months of speculation, West Ham United have confirmed that former captain Kevin Nolan has left the club. Nolan, who joined the Hammers from Newcastle in 2011 months after the club had been relegated, enjoyed an up and down career with the East London club.
His form has tailed off quite badly in recent months where he was struggling to keep up with play and struggling to do what he was so good at when he first joined the club, finding the back of the net. In truth, his last 18 months at the Irons have been a massive drop from the highs he enjoyed in the first two-and-a-half years as a Hammer.
The 33-year-old made 157 appearances in claret and blue and bagged 31 goals from midfield during his time at the Boleyn. His highs as Irons captain were leading the club to play-off glory before backing that up by being the Hammers’ top goalscorer two years in a row in the Premier League, in the side’s return to the big time.
Every West Ham fan I know will tell you what a magnificent captain he was – many say he was the best the club have had since Lucas Neill. Every player respected him, and the morale around the club during his time here was always second to none. He helped new players find their feet, and I believe he was a firm reason why Diafra Sakho settled so quickly last season. Behind every good team is a great captain, and Kevin was one of the best.
However, being a football player can be a cruel job at times, and as his form tailed off so did the patience from the fans. He was soon jeered by the ‘West Ham faithful’ as he struggled to maintain the high standards he set when he first joined. Booing any player in my book is wrong.
I understand we pay a lot of money to be “entertained” and when we see a player who is earning far more money than we could ever dream wander around and seemingly not make an effort it is hard to fathom. That wasn’t the case with Nolan though in my eyes, the former skipper had just hit the time in his career where he just struggled to hit the heights of his former self.
In truth, as soon as the boo-boys turned on Allardyce, skipper Nolan had no chance. Kevin Nolan was always seen as Big Sam’s right hand man, and when things went wrong with the manager, Nolan too would cop a fair amount of criticism.
People quickly forget what he has done for the club; he joined a sinking ship, with a team full of egos. He came in alongside another controversial figure in Allardyce and helped turn this great club around. He is a passionate, heart on your sleeve kind of character who just lifts every player around him.
I always thought with Nolan how much he wound other fans and players from the opposition up. I am sure should he return to the east end with another club he would wind us up. It’s just in his nature; he is in the referee’s face and opposition players’ faces.
I’ll never forget Reading at home in the Championship. Despite losing, he was getting all sorts of grief from the Royals fans behind the goal in the Sir Trevor Brooking lower. 4-1 down, Ricardo Vaz Te nods one back for the Hammers, Nolan runs into the back of the net collects the ball and made a gesture to the Reading fans behind the goal. That was the kind of man he was, he was a winner in many ways, he took no prisoners and believed in his side until the very end.
Nolan’s attitude was summed up in February 2014, the Hammers stuck in the midst of a relegation battle staring down the barrel of a gun needing a good month, and a hero. Step forward King Kev. Five goals in four games lifted the Irons towards safety. A pair of braces in the games against Swansea and Villa guided the club to their first back-to-back wins of the season; he then followed it up with a goal in the home fixture against Southampton as the club won four in a row.
One way or another, Mark Noble has massive shoes to fill now as he takes on the captain’s armband on a permanent basis. I am sure Kevin will be missed around the place but in Noble I am sure the club is in safe hands.
My message to you Kevin is, thank you for the memories, ignore the haters, and good luck for the rest of your career wherever it may take you. Come on you Irons!