Is there any room for West Ham’s returning skipper?

How many club captains are far from the fan favourite? West Ham’s for one.

Kevin Nolan has been the captain of West Ham United ever since he joined the Hammers in June 2011. He replaced an average captain in Matthew Upson and he was reunited with Sam Allardyce who chose the then 28-year-old to captain the side as they started their bid for an instant return to the Premier League.

Nolan left Newcastle United for West Ham where he was captain of The Geordies. Kevin scored 12 goals in The Championship campaign and helped guide The Hammers back to the Premier League via the playoffs. In the two Premier League campaigns that followed he was the clubs top goalscorer, albeit in a poor West Ham side in terms of attacking. So that’s both seasons that Nolan has been with West Ham in the Premier League that he has outscored all of his teammates – yet he still gets more criticism than most.

As the ‘Kevin Nolan saga’ continues, does he deserve to start for West Ham, and more bluntly is there any room for him?

Let’s get one thing straight, a captain’s influence is as much off the pitch as it is on it, and Nolan’s work behind he scenes seems excellent. He is one of the senior figures and with 359 Premier League appearances to date, he has a wealth of experience beyond most. He has personally shielded Andy Carroll and Ravel Morrison from the press’ jibes and he seems a popular figure within the squad, which has an obvious high level of morale.

He has been a consistent pick in West Ham’s squad under Sam Allardyce and hasn’t missed a game when fit. Many Hammers fans have been calling for Ravel Morrison to replace him, mainly during last season, but Big Sam has stuck by him. Now Morrison has gone on loan to Cardiff the competition for that centre-attacking midfield spot has weakened. Mauro Zarate can and will play there but West Ham’s formation has changed, and that’s why Morrison was allowed to leave on loan again.

The Hammers are largely donning a 4-3-3 formation with a free-roam given to Stewart Downing who’s excelling in his new role. Enner Valencia is playing out wide and both are supporting Sakho up top. Three central midfielders has been the order of the day for Big Sam’s new look West Ham.

Everyone knows that Nolan’s best position is in behind the front-man, and that’s how he has notched so many Premier League goals over the years from midfield. However, West Ham aren’t currently starting with a player in that position. Having said that, the Hammers are to be without Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate for Sunday’s home game against QPR as they were for the trip to Old Trafford last weekend. This somewhat forced Big Sam’s hand into playing a centre-attacking midfielder, which Stewart Downing obliged. It wasn’t West Ham’s best performance of the season so far, but they should have got something out of the game after Wayne Rooney was sent off.

Kevin made his return from injury against Man United when he replaced Diego Poyet for the final 15 minutes. He showed that his knack of arriving late in the box is still present and he tucked away an equaliser which was rightly ruled out for offside but could have easily of been given on another day.

I think Sam will stick with his line-up against Man United for the visit of QPR and I fully expect Kevin Nolan to be used as a substitute, where he may well be just as effective as scoring late goals. His overall lack of effort during games won’t be missed so it’ll keep the Hammers fans happy if he is called upon late to find important goals, rather than to contribute very little to the team.

Kevin’s days of playing in the Premier League are numbered, and that will be the case as he enters the final years of his career, but he can still do a job, and if he wants another job I wouldn’t mind him being a part of the coaching staff when that day comes. He’s a leader who is excellent for morale – he just doesn’t quite offer enough during the full 90 minutes anymore.

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