West Ham skipper gives no excuses for Hammer horror

Hammers captain Kevin Nolan apologised to the West Ham fans after Tuesday’s 5-1 hammering at Ipswich

West Ham skipper Kevin Nolan stared off into the freezing cold Portman Road air as he contemplated a 90 minutes that had been his worst experience in a claret and blue shirt since his arrival in the summer.

Was he straining for an excuse? Was he considering some positive spin? Not a bit of it. There was no Avram Grant attempt to paper over the cracks of this West Ham performance from Nolan.

“What went wrong? Well, 11 players didn’t turn up for one,” said the 29-year-old midfielder with icy breath.

“We didn’t do what we were supposed to do and Ipswich were good,” he continued. “Their gameplan worked better than ours and we were very, very poor. We can’t get away from it.”

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Captaincy can be a tough job at times. Standing up and facing the music when your team have been stuffed 5-1 is all in the remit if you want to do the job properly and Nolan certainly fulfils that criteria.

The absence of Matthew Upson when things were going pear-shaped and the team were looking for a leader was a significant part in West Ham’s demise last season. When the captain needed to step from the trenches with a rallying cry, there was nothing but a whimper.

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When Lucas Neill was at the helm you knew who the captain was and that he would stand up for his players. Well with Nolan too, you get that same feeling that he is watching the team’s back.

“It’s very rare that you get 11 players who just don’t perform on the night,” he reiterated. “We didn’t and we have got to hold our hands up.

“We’re big enough to say we didn’t perform and Ipswich probably played their best game of the season.

“We’ve got to take it on the chin, bounce back from it and show that we’re men and there’s no better way than by doing it against Millwall in a derby at home on Saturday in front of 30,000 spectators.”

He’s right, of course, though he did have some words of comfort for the 2,000 hardy Hammers who braved roadworks and rail engineering works to traipse to Portman Road and watch that abject display.

“It must have been very disappointing for them,” he said with some understatement. “All we can do is apologise for the performance and thank them for sticking with us and we hope they continue to do so.

“Hopefully we will give them what they deserve on Saturday.”

It was time for some positive thinking from the skipper, but he was guarded when it came to the prospect of the Millwall clash.

“It is going to be tough,” he said. “Ipswich were around the bottom and Millwall are around there, but there are no easy games in this league and that’s what we’ve got to learn.

“As a squad we are still learning because we’ve got a lot of young boys who have done fantastically well. After 28 games, we’re top of the league and where we wanted to be – albeit after a very disappointing night.

“Twenty-eight games in and if you had asked any fan where they wanted to be, they’d all say ‘top of the league’ and we have a two-point cushion, so it’s nice.”

Captain’s job done. Nolan gave a little smile through gritted teeth and made his weary way to the team coach.

It really can be tough at the top.

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