First of all, I’d like to point out that this in no regards just a knee-jerk to West Ham’s thoroughly unimpressive Europa League qualifier last night against FC Birkirkara. The club narrowly made it through to the next qualifying round via a penalty shoot-out; but, the cumbersome nature of the team stood out – especially that of Captain Kevin Nolan.
Nolan has always had it tough with West Ham fans, probably more so through his association with former manager Sam Allardyce and fans knowing that there was a ‘bond’ between the two men. In the last two Premier League seasons under Sam Allardyce we saw; Nolan publicly stating that he’d asked to be dropped from the side because of his form, which saw him pick up a flurry of red cards over the busy Christmas period – Allardyce though, kept his talisman playing. Last season we actually saw Kevin Nolan come back into the side thanks to injuries to new players such as Cheikhou Kouyate and Alex Song who were, obviously, keeping the Scouser-at-heart on the bench. It was surprising then, that Nolan actually played an awful lot better in a much deeper role than he was accustomed too.
Saying that though, this form of good play didn’t last long – well, it wouldn’t have considering West Ham’s 2015 in the League. Now 33, Nolan’s influence over the side has waned massively – something which last nights Europa League game was definitely indicative of. Even during his poor spell of form in the 2013/14 season he still finished the club’s top goal-scorer with a rather pitiful seven goals, and, 5 assists. It was an entirely different picture last season though, with Nolan only notching ONCE as well as only one assist for the season.
His return last season has seen Nolan’s status as perhaps an undeserving scapegoat-come-pantomine-villain has turned into a truly quite worrying conundrum. With the new signings coming thick and fast, will Nolan really get into a midfield boasting; Dimitri Payet, Pedro Obiang, Cheikhou Kouyate and possibly Alex Song? Add in Mark Noble and the fast emerging Diego Poyet…where does Nolan fit into Bilic’s plans? A cup player? Is he even good enough for that right now? Okay, it’s still ‘technically’ pre-season – but against the team who came third in the Maltese League he struggled in the middle of the park, especially, fitness wise.
For me, I’ve now officially got on to the ‘Nolan Out’ bandwagon. But, the issue remains that what can we do? Which club will come in for a 33 year old who will be on anywhere between £50,000-60,000 per week? A player who struggles to keep up with Premier League pace or physicality and struggles to score which was his only remaining virtue. But, a player whose wages are far too high for a drop down in League.
There were rumours of a return to Bolton, but that would have required West Ham still forking out for a high percentage of Nolan’s wages. Regardless of how bad, or good, he is if we’re still paying a percentage of his wages, we may as well keep him as we will have an awful lot of games this season if we do manage to qualify for the group stages of the Europa League. The only other suggestion of a move away from East London was a switch to West London, with West Ham reportedly ready to offer QPR Nolan and Matt Jarvis in a player + cash deal for the transfer of QPR’s Charlie Austin. However, not much more has been said on that matter. For what it’s worth though, I think the deal would suit both us and QPR there. It just depends, again, on the wages that they’d demand with the drop to the Championship.
It’s certainly got to the point where the large majority of fans have had enough, unfortunately, it isn’t even like Carlton Cole’s case of scapegoat-come-pantomine-villain where he still regularly contributed – albeit not directly – but with Nolan, it’s hard for him to even contribute to the team anymore.
I think if the opportunity arose for Bilic, and the club to get Nolan off the books we’d take it in a heart-beat. He came to us when we were in need of galvanising, he did it, he scored goals for us consistently helping us return to the Premier League. For what it’s worth, he did much like Allardyce did; just about what was asked of him. But, mirroring his former manager again, he has tailed off far too much now – so – it really is time for an amicable split.