Only in the ever increasingly depressing world of West Ham United would receiving a red card for your captain be greeted with such a positive response. With the team struggling for form, we should really be looking to our leaders in order to rally the team, yet general consensus seems to be that the three game ban could be a blessing in disguise.
So much so, that not once have I seen an opinion given through social media that suggested the red card was a harsh one — especially when you consider the near identical challenge on Downing that Jon Flanaghan escaped unpunished from. So what of the red card? It wasn’t a Nolan type challenge. Had he been sent off for a flying two footed lunge, I think we’d all be able to accept that it was a long time coming. But a petulant little stamp? That’s just not Nolan.
He is undoubtedly aware of the pressure coming from the fans currently — being substituted and subsequently booed in each of his last two games should give the first clue — and that his place in our side is under perhaps the most scrutiny. This pressure, added to the fact that Liverpool had dominated our midfield all day, it is clear that for Nolan, the red mist came down. And the red card went up. The storm clouds now appear to gathering above our skipper with even more momentum than ever during his career.
But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. And ironically, West Ham’s silver lining could be someone who is no stranger to storm clouds himself. Step forward Ravel Morrison. One of the few shining lights in this debacle of a season now is really his time to shine. Whenever he has played so far, whilst he has not let anyone down, it has at times been to the detriment of the balance of the team.
With Nolan persistently playing as the furthest forward midfielder, Morrison’s inclusion in the team has usually seen Diame pushed out to the wing, leaving Nolan slightly isolated in providing a barrier in front of our back 4. With Nolan out of the team for the must win game with Sunderland, the fans will surely now get the line up they have been craving — Diame and Noble playing centrally together, with Morrison in the traditional number 10 role.
With the extent of Downing’s injury as yet unknown, the importance of Jarvis starting grows. If both are available, then for the first time this season we have the opportunity to get genuine pace and attacking guile both centrally and from the wings. More significantly, three players in attacking positions who are prepared to get the ball down at their feet and run at a Sunderland defence consisting of John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Phil Bardsley — hardly the toughest opponents in the Premier League.
It may well be by default rather than selection, but we now have the midfield that many fans want. With Nolan absent, so too should the negativity from the crowds. And you never know, should the team perform well without our less than inspirational leader, Allardyce might well be left with no option but to leave out a player that only he currently sees as undroppable.