West Ham skipper turned team from rudderless ship to winners

West Ham captain Kevin Nolan has been the inspiration in turning around the team’s fortunes this season

Last season’s miserable relegation was compounded by the fact that West Ham looked a rudderless ship.

They lacked authority in their manager and lacked leadership on the field, but that has certainly been rectified this season with the arrival of the inspirational Kevin Nolan.

Say what you like about some of his displays, everyone knew that Nolan was the captain of this team and he deserved his moment when he picked up the play-off trophy at Wembley on Saturday.

“It was relief, elation a bit of everything,” said the skipper when asked about the moment when he thrust the trophy into the air.

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“I couldn’t actually see myself celebrating the way that I did, but the whole season just comes out in one moment and I am delighted.”

At times, it didn’t look like it would go their way on Saturday and Nolan was only too aware of that.

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“They had the momentum and it seems as though there were 14 Blackpool players on the pitch at one point,” said the 29-year-old.

“But we weathered the storm brilliantly and everything about the game today showed what we are about.”

Nolan came close to winning the game himself when he met George McCartney’s cross with a volley that crashed against the crossbar.

“I’ve connected well and you normally know that you’ve got a chance of it being a goal, but it was a fantastic save,” he said.

“There wasn’t one point when I thought that it wasn’t going to be our day. The nerves started to come in, but I thought that we handled it absolutely fantastically well.”

It is a far cry from the stumbling silence of Matty Upson as the Hammers were relegated last season, but then that is why manager Sam Allardyce brought Nolan into the club.

“It is an honour to be captain of West Ham,” said Nolan.

“To be able to lead the lads at a fantastic stadium and win the game to get us back to where we belong especially for those fans and the chairmen is just fantastic.

“I think you’ve seen at the end with all the celebrations how as a team we are together and that includes all the staff and everyone.”

And that is one of the crucial differences.

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