A relationship that continues to hinder West Ham

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Kevin NolanI’m jumping on a bandwagon, and it’s not the usual ‘flavour of the month’ gripe. This is an issue that has angered and frustrated me for literally months and months, and I am convinced that it is one of the main reasons that we find ourselves in such a woeful predicament at the conclusion of 2013.

I have told everyone who would listen that Kevin Nolan’s ‘first name on the team sheet’ status is baffling, totally unwarranted, impossible to justify, and in all probability a huge confidence crusher to all the midfielders sitting on the bench week after week who have watched an ageing and dithering player simply watching play go on all around him whilst he has failed to score, create, tackle, or usefully assist an overworked midfield; a midfield that has failed to provide either forward support to the poor beggar chosen to ‘lead the line’ (what line Sam ??), or enough purposeful cover to an error prone defence, recently weakened to epic and potentially disastrous proportions.

The stark truth is that there is such an unhealthy relationship between Sam Allardyce and Kevin Nolan, based clearly upon past allegiances during their time at Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United, that no matter what the performance level of his captain, the man he described in 2012 as “his own Steven Gerrard” (perhaps that says more than I ever could?), he continues to play him.

I used the word “unhealthy” because this blind allegiance and almost criminal failure to accept his right hand man was no longer worth his place on merit, no matter which criteria was used to evaluate the situation, had badly affected West Ham on the field of play. I am sure he is great behind the scenes and in the dressing room, but so probably is the Bert the kit-man or Vera the tea-lady! We need players being useful where it matters, out on the pitch, not on PR jaunts to schools or dressed up as Santa Claus and wishing the long-suffering fans a Merry Christmas.

The modern game, especially at Premier League level, is so finely tuned that managers and sports performance directors are trying to squeeze an extra 2 or 3% from both individuals, and the team unit as a whole. When you have a player like Nolan contributing nothing of any value to a team performance, we have in effect lost 10% of the outfield, a huge handicap to carry for any side, let alone an under-strength and under-performing West Ham.

I’ve watched game after game as midfield dominance has slowly but surely been won by the opposition giving them the launch pad for offensive raids that have caused us all sorts of problems and led to home defeats without so much as a whimper. Nolan has been consistent in terms of his match-day invisibility and non-performance; much of the blame lies with Allardyce for playing a second striker (supposedly Kevin Nolan) who, I assume, is purely in the side to feed off a main striker and provide the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…goals. If there is no main man up front, what is the point of playing a goal hanging luxury?

Nolan has appeared lost, literally. With no one to feed off (his mate Andy Carroll), and therefore serving no useful attacking purpose, he has simply flitted around looking for something to do in order to justify selection. As he cannot play a midfield role in any way shape or form (no legs, no skills, no control, no pace, no creativity) we must ask why is he in the side in place of Jack Collison, and lately Alou Diarra, two players who could at least put a shift in by closing down and working hard to stop the opposition from gaining the ascendancy in that all too critical midfield zone. Surely a young, fit and quick-witted Ravel Morrision playing in a more forward slot would yield better results than the unproductive Nolan has.

Management is tough, but that’s why they earn huge salaries; to take the flak when things go wrong, and to make tough calls. Tough calls like calling Kevin Nolan into your office and saying sorry mate, times up but thanks for all you have done for me over the last 10 years or so. It’s hard, it hurts and it’s a cruel thing to have to do. But it’s the RIGHT thing for West Ham United, and for our survival chances, whatever they may now be.

In fairness, Nolan’s goal and assist in the disappointing home draw with West Bromwich Albion were welcome, but were just a mere glimpse of what we witnessed last season.

In my eyes Sam Allardyce has lost all managerial credibility with his Kevin Nolan fixation, and has put an easy managerial life before West Ham’s best interests. This is a man who is supposed to live by the match statistics put at his disposal each week. With the Nolan stats showing no goals, no shots, no tackles won, few passes made and relatively few miles covered, how were these interpreted as anything other than disappointing at best, and totally unacceptable at worst ?

Alex Ferguson was a boss who knew when the time was right for both club and player to part company. There is simply no room for sentiment when it comes to picking a team, especially one battling for Premier League survival,  and I feel that the Allardyce/Nolan love-in has cost us so badly over the past five months, that we are now on the point of no-return, and no amount of new blood will be enough to save us disappearing down that big, and ever widening black hole called relegation. I hope I am wrong.

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Plaistow born Spencer is a lifelong Hammer and having spent half-a century plus, enduring this lifelong obsession, along with every other West Ham supporter, knows exactly what it takes and what it means to wrap that Claret & Blue scarf round your neck every other Saturday and head off for the Boleyn !

A Chartered Surveyor by profession, Spencer, now 58, has played, coached and managed at semi-pro level within Essex for a number of clubs, and, simply unable to give up playing, currently turns out for the Iron Maiden Over 35’s side when he is not watching the Hammers, playing guitar in his Classic Rock covers band Gunrunner, or more probably, injured yet again!


  • Dave says:

    Totally agree, but what is going on with the January recruiting, was pleased to read we were winning the loan race for Ishak Belfodil, young, big with pace. Then we are linked with Big Sams usual signings, two past it overweight Italians with no pace. Does Sam want a team of mini-me’s?

  • Smiff says:

    I totally agree with your comments and have been saying the same all season. If anything I believe you’ve been very charitable to Nolan with your comment, “a mere glimpse of what we witnessed last season”. This suggests that he performed adequately last season, I have to disagree. He scored 10 goals last season from ‘midfield’ three of which came on the last day against relegated Reading. So that’s 7 goals from over 30 games but let’s not forget, Nolan doesn’t play as a midfielder and never has in a West Ham shirt.

    It’s a very valid point you make about players watching KN from the bench and having their confidence eroded as a result. How also must Noble feel after a number of seasons alongside Scott Parker giving his all to then have to team up with ‘captain’ Nolan who offers next to nothing week in and week out.

    The first half performance on Saturday was as pathetic as I’ve seen since previous relegation battles, on that evidence, there are very few of our lads playing for Allardyce. The people with the brave decision to make are Gold and Sullivan but it appears they’ve learned nothing from the misplaced faith in Avram Grant.

    I’m dreading the looming relegation, it’s so unfair to tens of thousands of us who stand by this great club through every new generation of shite.

  • Steve James says:

    Totally agree with all that has been said. Its time for BFS to take the decision on KN and drop him to the bench at the very least to make way for Collison or Ravel.

  • Paull says:

    I think he should be dropped until AC is back

  • Lee Jones says:

    Spot on. Been saying this for months. Worse still are the rumours Nolan asked to be dropped and Sam refused, and now apparently the manager is angry with Ravel Morrisson for questioning Nolans ‘automatic place’
    Can’t blame Nolan but I cannot put my faith in Allardyce.

  • JB says:

    Look Spencer. We are only 1 point below 17th placed Palace. The way you are talking, you’d think we’d be many points adrift in the relegation zone. I am not saying that we are not in a bad position, but I definitely think that we can salvage the season by moving to the middle of the table, where we belong. I am not going to deny your analysis of Kevin, but at the moment and with all of the injuries we have, and until we can sign some new players, then the only squad we have is as follows:
    Jääskeläinen, Demel, McCartney, Noble, Rat, Nolan, Diamé, J. Cole, C. Cole, Maiga, Jarvis,
    Adrián, O’Brien, Diarra, Taylor, Collison, Chambers, Potts
    There are 18 players there. That is exactly a starting 11 & 7 subs.
    Are you suggesting we make Noble the captain? To tell you the truth, I am not totally wrapped in Noble, sure, he’s worth his place in the team, but if you take out Nolan, then you have to make Noble captain, is that what you think would work?
    Out of that starting line up from Jääskeläinen to Jarvis, who started against West Brom on Saturday as above, I would only pick from 4 subs of O’Brien, Diarra, Taylor & Collison. If you leave Nolan out completely, i.e. you play as follows;
    Jääskeläinen, Demel, McCartney, Noble, Rat, Diamé, J. Cole, C. Cole, Maiga, Jarvis,
    That’s only 10 of Saturday’s starting line up, which leaves O’Brien, Diarra, Taylor, Collison to complete a number 14 being the starting 11 + 3 subs. Are you ranking Nolan alongside who is left, being Chambers & Potts. Is this who you are saying that the captain Nolan should be left on the bench with? We may only be talking about a very short time period for new players to be signed, but until then, we’ll need all the players we can get. I thought Nolan had a good game on Saturday. We need to start getting wins from the next 2 games being Fulham & then Cardiff, I’m sorry but stuff the cups, the Premier League is too important & I don’t care who we field in the cups., but for now, we need stability, and if you don’t start Nolan, then he is definitely worth bringing on as a sub, but if you do that then you play pass the parcell with the captaincy and that can have an even more detrimental effect. I agree that he should never be put in as a forward again, no midfield is where he belongs, and we may have to keep playing him untill well into January, and if he can’t pull his socks up at the ripe old age of 31 then he can move on. Why do West Ham have to continually blame their failings on players supposed old age. I mean Chelsea can still get the best out of players in their mid 30s and they want to sign Alonso from Real Madrid who is 32.
    This team can beat Fulham, no problem, and just remember, that West Ham’s current position in the table is a false position. West Ham are a mid table team, and Fulham are a lower half of the table team, even if Dempsey plays. Seeing as Fulham come into this game on the back of 6-0 hiding, then I think West ham should start both of their strikers and just go for as many goals as they can get, right from kick off. Maybe at least a 3-0 half time lead is possible? If Kevin is not up to scratch after the games at Fulham & Cardiff, then yes, we should be able to replace him then, but for now stabilty & 6 points from the next 2 games is more important than unsettling the players. We did that with Jääskeläinen only to realise he is better than Adrian, but the switch did unsettle him, it affected his form and we could have won on Saturday if he had been played against Arsenal instead of Adrian. Give Kevin a couple more games & if he still can’t raise his game by then, then sure, give him the outrageous elbow.

  • notanyoldiron says:

    I agree with all the comments. If we had a fully fit squad, especially with Carroll Downing and Reid, we would probably be sat comfortably mid table and therefore not having this debate. All players know when they are off the boil and not performing. Nolan knows he is in that place now. He will have been expecting to be benched. So Allardyce can stop worrying about that. to make matters worse, i reckon that Morrison has had words with Allardyce about selection issues, and isn’t injured at all. I hope i’m off target!!! There is enough with Noble Collison Diame Morrison and Joe C in midfield, and Cole/Maiga up front, to see a result at Fulham. No need for Nolan. We still have quality players who are match fit and capable of playing good passing football. So it makes my blood boil when we get out possessed at home to WBA. Grrrrrrr

  • Martin says:

    Been saying till I’m blue in the face he is lazy collision is a much better player and even Diarra had a great pre season toll he got injured

  • Tom E says:

    Kevin Nolan does bring something to the team. He is a leader and that doesn’t make the stat sheet. I would say this, give him the initial run out, maybe 45 to 60 minutes and then bring in Collison, Diarra or Taylor as the need may be.

    Kevin is needed at the club now because of his leadership. His time is short though. He has clearly shown he is in decline. Maybe getting Andy Carroll back will help.

    • Spen55 says:

      Tom. When, metaphorically speaking, you are lying in the trenches in mud with bullets flying, you want someone to grab you by the arm and llead from the front mate, to take control, lead by example, make the big blocks and tackles, score the important goal (Gerrard, Terry, Toure etc) not spend the whole game watching things happen and giving the ref a mouthful at every opportunity ! He is a very likeable bloke, but that doesn’t make his place secure above more deserving guys does it ?

  • RonBoy29 says:

    I believe that Spencers comments are spot on and shared by all the supporters I speak to. JB should realise that loyalty is a fine thing but do we all want to be like the orchestra on the Titanic, singing Bubbles while the ship sinks! Follow Nolans game as a mid-fielder and the question as to whether he is currently worth his place is a no-brainer. And as for the Bolton crew I honestly doubt whether in all my 79 years supporting this team have I seen such mediocre players as Taylor and O’Brien. We have the under 21’s flying high and is Sam really convinced that there is no player there not worth a run-out and no better than the three already mentioned. Just look at the under 19 players performing wonderfully for Liverpool, Everton, West Bromwhich and Southampton to mentiuon a few.And JB have you looked at our future fixtures and still feel hopeful? Dont hold your breath but like me keep praying!!

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