West Ham captains historically have a tendency to be massive fan favourites and club heroes, as is the case with any team normally.
You only need to look at the likes of Bobby Moore, Julian Dicks, Alvin Martin, Billy Bonds, Paolo Di Canio and more recently Scott Parker to understand the cult hero status that comes with the West Ham armband, yet the most recent and current club captain Kevin Nolan seems to be quite the unpopular figure amongst West Ham fans.
The ex-Bolton and Newcastle skipper was favoured by manager Sam Allardyce as captain in all the teams he has been at because of the player’s great leadership skills, hard work-rate and popularity in the dressing room. His current team mates have publicly praised Nolan as a great motivator and friend, and the right choice for captain. But for some reason this has not done much to sway some fans into buying into him.
This stems from the fact he is getting on in age, which resulted in a dip in his performances last season and the recklessness that saw him pick up two red cards in over last year’s festive period and ultimately led to a suspension at a time when the Hammers could ill afford to lose any more players, during a busy and injury ravaged period of the campaign. He has always given his best and has quite often been the reason West Ham have won a match, or clawed out a result and hung on for a draw. At times he has been a better goal scorer for the east London side than some of their misfiring strikers.
There has certainly been more positives during his time at West Ham than negatives. But the reason for his villain status at the club has been as a result of a few things. The manager’s unpopularity with the fans has contributed towards it because the two are such good friends, and it seems Nolan’s place in the team is always safe regardless of how he plays.
Secondly, this season West Ham have a very strong squad of players to choose from, which has made the shoulder injury he picked up last month go unnoticed as the Hammers enjoyed some positive performances and good results without him in the side.
Such has been the quality of the Hammers’ start to the campaign without Nolan in the team that the main worry has been the skipper’s impending return from injury and the fear that he could walk straight back into the side and take the place of someone who has been playing well and fought hard to establish themselves in the starting line up thus far. The fear is that Allardyce will ignore the good performers and fast track Nolan straight back in to the centre of midfield.
But those fears are not exactly justified. For starters, Nolan is the Hammers’ captain and, as mentioned already, a very popular figure in the squad who motivates and befriends his team mates. Regardless of how good a team is without him, they will always be better with him in it. Despite the fact he is in the latter stages of his career, a simple bench appearance can work wonders from Kevin Nolan, which turned out to be the case in their latest game against Manchester United this weekend where he almost bagged West Ham a last minute point had the linesman not flagged him offside.
West Ham had an excellent game apart from the opening 20 minute spell where they quickly found themselves trailing 2-0. But despite doing well without Nolan from the start, he managed to bring a lot to the fold when he did come on and he will continue to do that throughout the season.
He will always graft hard for his team, whether his form is up to scratch or not, and he will definitely get points for his work rate and leadership, which is invaluable. As good as West Ham have shown they are without him, they are undoubtedly better with him and that could prove crucial to the Hammers’ top ten ambitions this season.