When Sam Allardyce was appointed manager of West Ham back in June 2011, both he and the co-owners were desperate to return the club to the top-flight at the first attempt.
His first signing was his former captain at Bolton and Newcastle Kevin Nolan who it was thought would bring some much needed Premier League experience to the side. Additionally, Nolan has been with Allardyce for most of his career and big Sam clearly sees him as someone he can trust; when they have been together Allardyce has always handed Nolan the captaincy.
Nolan has been a key component of the West Ham side since he joined and has scored many important goals for the team but the question that has to be posed is whether the club captain is able to last a full 90 minutes these days?
Since the new playing style has been employed at Upton Park this season, Nolan has found it very difficult to regain his place in the side after injuring his shoulder in the warm-up when the Hammers made the trip across London to Selhurst Park in August. After the game, reports of the original diagnosis claimed it would be up to six weeks.
Nolan’s first appearance in the Claret and Blue since the opening day came at Old Trafford and he made a significant impact, but his 86th minute equaliser ,which would have made it 2-2, was harshly ruled out for offside.
With injuries taking their toll on Saturday at Everton, the Irons were without their best players, including the new midfield enforcer of Stewart Downing and the pacey Cheikou Kouyate and Alex Song. Allardyce was forced to throw the regular skipper back into the side and he made little impact, though he could once again be named in the starting line-up for this Saturday’s home meeting with Newcastle, as Mark Noble picked up a knock against the Toffees last weekend. We shall see when Allardyce speaks at his press conference tomorrow.
Nolan is 32, suggesting he is coming to the end of his established career and with the options available to Allardyce now, he has often only been included on the bench. With his contract having 18 months left to run and younger players coming into the side, is it worth West Ham cashing in on him or letting him leave nothing?
West Ham were definitely short of options in attacking positions last season so having Nolan missing for a total of seven games – for what can only be described as stupid Red cards – didn’t help matters, especially as they came at a crucial period in the season. However, he was influential after he served his suspensions and managed to get the goals that made him the club’s top goalscorer for the campaign.
Although the team now play a more open and expansive style of football, and they are able to move the ball quicker, Nolan is still a natural board leader and, in my opinion, West Ham would initially find it hard to adapt to life without him.