A few days before West Ham’s fabulous win at Anfield it was revealed the club had parted company with captain Kevin Nolan. The news wasn’t really a surprise and in some ways the writing had been on the wall for the former Newcastle United and Bolton midfielder from the moment Sam Allardyce didn’t have his contract renewed at the end of last season
At 33, Nolan was clearly past his best and I’ve no doubt it was the right time to let him move on. For most of last season he struggled and didn’t seem his normal self. He got plenty of stick from the fans for his performances and I think it got to him in the end. It couldn’t have been nice hearing the stuff that was hurled his way from the stands and I’m sure the abuse he received online would have reached him, even if he didn’t read it himself.
Nevertheless, I think he deserves a bit more respect and gratitude than he has received. Some fans feel that, because they go to the games and pay good money, they can say and do what they want. But these people have to remember that the players are only human.
One thing you can never accuse him of was being lazy. He worked hard for the team and did everything he could. I’m sure he would admit himself he wasn’t the same player who joined our club all those years ago but it wasn’t for the want of trying. He also scored some very important goals for us and led us back to the Premier League after we had been relegated under Avram Grant. For that alone he deserves our gratitude.
I heard him talk on the radio recently and he was very complimentary about Slaven Bilic and spoke positively about the style and the methods he was introducing. You can’t be a captain of a club for such a long time without having some sort of affinity with the club and fans. I’m sure he will find another club and I feel he certainly could have a couple of good years left in the Championship. He says he has still got the ambition to play and I for one wish him all the best.
As a result of Nolan leaving Mark Noble was made club captain and, to me, he was the perfect choice. He is Mr West Ham. I don’t know how long this appointment will be for but, if you’re looking for someone who will give everything for the cause, it would be him.
I had one of the first interviews with him when he first broke through to the first team and I know being our captain is the biggest honour he will probably have. I know he still harbours ambitions of making it into the England squad but I think his time has probably passed unfortunately, so to lead West Ham could be as good as it gets.
One of the first things Noble will want to do is improve the home form. It’s been like this at West Ham for a while. We’ve had quite a good away record over the last few years but the days of fortress Upton Park seem long gone. When I last interviewed Allardyce, he said players really felt the pressure at home and this season when Bournemouth went 2-0 up, you could hear the booing already.
I don’t think it helps matters. Sometimes the atmosphere can get a little bit too nasty, too quickly. I’m not saying we can’t voice our disapproval but booing after 20 minutes won’t get us anywhere. Sing loud and proud!