Despite enjoying most of his time at Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United as a firm fan favourite in the eyes of the many supporters that came to watch him play on a week-to-week basis, Kevin Nolan’s current spell at Upton Park just hasn’t quite managed to have the same impact.
To some West Ham fans, the 33-year-old represents a match winning captain – both on and off the field – who successfully helped his side get promoted at the first time of asking and maintained the club’s position in the Premier League ever since.
Yet to a large section of others within the loyal Upton Park faithful, Kevin Nolan acts as nothing more than a frustrating reminder of Sam Allardyce’s old fashioned style and the sheer lack of creativity in the final third shown under the club’s former manager in recent years.
So then, does Kevin Nolan still has a meaningful role to play at Upton Park during the upcoming season, or are the former Bolton man’s days now well and truly numbered with the Hammers as the 2015/16 campaign already fast approaches?
What must be said within the context of this whole debate first and foremost perhaps, is the fact that no one, from his most determined admirers to his many critics, could ever really accuse Kevin Nolan of not delivering what has been asked of him during his time in the east end.
Upon being relegated back down to the Championship after a very poor season under Avram Grant in 2010/11, West Ham’s current captain stepped in at a club in desperate need of some guiding leadership, and re-solidified the Hammers’ status back in the Premier League with little complication.
Nolan also successfully topped the goal-scoring charts for Sam Allardyce’s side in the seasons after his initial appointment at captain, reaching significant figures in the Premier League in both the 2012/13 and 2013/14 campaigns. Such an output seemingly can’t be challenged when the no. 4’s statistics are looked at on paper.
To the widespread admiration of most West Ham fans far and wide, the 33-year-old took to his captaincy duties at Upton Park with sheer professionalism and very rarely let his side down from a leadership perspective. For that aspect of his game, Kevin Nolan will likely be fondly remembered in the east end for a good while to come.
The club’s upcoming move to the Olympic Stadium has arguably only become a viable option now that West Ham have re-established themselves in the English top flight, and they can certainly thank their captain for that.
However, when it comes to performing adequately on a week-to-week basis with a view of entertaining the fans as well as getting the results, Kevin Nolan is sadly no longer good enough to play in the Premier League. Quite frankly, the former Bolton and Newcastle goal-scorer simply hasn’t been at the required level for quite a while now.
It’s all well and good scoring the odd goal here and there from goal-line scrambles and set-piece positioning, but ultimately West Ham fans want to see the prospect of entertaining football at least being attempted at Upton Park whilst they’re there to watch the games. Nolan can no longer operate as an fluid attacking midfielder – yet as the 33-year-old has never really been considered a defensive player throughout his extensive career – playing deeper doesn’t really suit the Hammers’ no. 4 a great deal either.
Under Sam Allardyce at Upton Park, Kevin Nolan’s addition in the starting XI usually meant other promising players had to be sacrificed in order for the captain to get his game time. Despite offering next to nothing for large parts of the 2014/15 campaign, Big Sam invariably gave Nolan a starting role and completely reverted on the team’s earlier successes in the season just to re-accommodate his main man when he returned from injury.
Although the chance to work under Slaven Bilic may admittedly offer the midfielder a new lease of life at Upton Park next season – it seems the relationship between the West Ham fans and Kevin Nolan himself has ultimately reached a brick wall now thanks to all that has come before. His name has sadly become synonymous with the overly-defensive set-up and distinct lack of attacking threat characterised under the club’s former manager.
With West Ham seemingly spending big on the likes of Dimitri Payet this summer however, it seems Nolan wouldn’t get much of a chance next season anyway – so even though his stint at Upton Park has certainly been memorable – now is the time for both parties to amicably wave goodbye to one another and go their separate ways.