Kevin Nolan was once on the brink of an England call-up, and while at the age of 30 that chance has come and gone, he still possesses all of the qualities that turned heads all those years ago and is putting them to use for West Ham.
He played most of his career at Bolton Wanderers under Sam Allardyce, and although they went their separate ways for a while they soon found themselves back together recreating the good times in the claret and blue of West Ham. Nolan spent 10 years at Bolton in a successful team that qualified for the UEFA Cup twice, both times reaching the knockout phase. After the departure of Jay-Jay Okocha in 2006 he was appointed captain by Allardyce and excelled as Bolton cemented themselves as a Premier League side.
In January 2009 he signed for Newcastle for a £4m fee but due to the unrest at the club, they were relegated in May. Nolan however played an integral part of the Newcastle side that bounced straight back to the Premier League in style, winning the championship with ease. He was voted Championship player of the season and appointed Newcastle captain soon after.
Back in the Premier League under Allardyce once more, but now at West Ham, Nolan is again club captain and an integral part of the team. If the Hammers are to survive this season he will need to produce match-winning performances week in and week out, whether that includes scoring goals or getting involved in the midfield scraps to protect a lead.
After the victory over Aston Villa on Saturday Allardyce likened Nolan’s ability to ghost into the box to former England captain David Platt. This ability in a footballer is rare – it cannot be coached or moulded and it is hard for the opposition to stop. It is an attribute that many players long to acquire and while having natural ability and technique is all well and good, finding the time and space on the pitch to use those skills is the challenge all footballers face during a match.
Yet Nolan’s qualities do not solely lie with his attacking attributes. He has the desire and passion to get stuck in with the best and come out on top. His work rate is second to none and it is for these reasons he has become such a favourite with the fans. His experience of playing in Premier League dog fights will be a huge boost for the Hammers over the course of the season. He will guide the younger players as well as the new signings through the tougher months and his knowledge will be invaluable to his team mates.
Nolan is a special talent and although he never did get that England cap he arguably deserved, his efforts at club level will continue to be cherished by those he played for. And should he manage to keep West Ham up, he will surely be remembered as one of the club’s Premier League greats.