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On Sunday, West Ham travelled to St James’ Park, a ground where the Hammers last won fourteen years’ ago with goals from Ian Wright (2) and Trevor Sinclair (1), and recorded a one-nil win with another goal from Nolan.
The sub-plots were all in place, with Sam Allardyce, Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll returning to Newcastle United, and Alan Pardew, once manager of West Ham, now in the driving seat for the Magpies.
West Ham now sit in sixth place in the Premier League with eighteen points, keeping five clean sheets in the opening eleven games-a trait that is not usually associated with the boys in claret and blue.
Kevin Nolan is fast becoming a true West Ham captain. The value of this man should not be underestimated. Through his leadership, he dragged the Hammers through an unconvincing Championship campaign, culminating in the Wembley play-off win against Blackpool; and now leading West Ham in their second best start in the Premier League, weighing in with five goals.
He is the link between Sam Allardyce and the players. His relationship with Andy Carroll was also important in getting him to come to West Ham on loan. His attitude has galvanised the West Ham team with an indefatigable team spirit-something that not even a Russian oligarch can buy.
When West Ham went a goal ahead at Newcastle United, there was a collective belief among the players that they could prevent the home team from scoring. This belief is being strengthened week by week as the defensive performances gain more clean sheets.
The previous game against Manchester City was a case in point, as the West Ham defence denied the feared superstar attacking players that City has at its disposal. In fact it was the first time for twenty games that any defence has stopped them from scoring.
Sam Allardyce is turning West Ham into a team that the supporters deserve. After so many years of being badly led, particularly the dark and embarrassing period of Avram Grant, to see the team once again fight for one another and the claret and blue shirt, Big Sam could one day be seen in the same light as the likes of Ron Greenwood and John Lyall; if allowed to finish the job in hand.