July 23 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Kirk Blows writes for you each week
West Ham play their most important game of the season on Saturday when Sunderland visit Upton Park – and captain Kevin Nolan will be missing.
And the popular view among Hammers fans is that it’s no bad thing.
In most circumstances, the suspension of your skipper should provoke annoyance, apprehension and anxiety.
A struggling team needs its leaders when going into battle against another side battling against relegation.
Where would West Ham have been without the services of warriors such as Billy Bonds, Alvin Martin and Julian Dicks in past times?
But Nolan is not that sort of character and it’s fair to say that his influence on games is low key at best.
If the attacking midfielder is not scoring goals – and he has struggled to do that this season without Andy Carroll playing in front of him – he turns into the invisible man.
Whole games seem to pass by before you even notice he’s on the pitch.
That’s not been the case over the last four games, however, because Nolan has failed to complete 90 minutes in any of them.
He was hauled off against Chelsea, Fulham and Crystal Palace – substitutions that were cheered by fans – and sent off in Saturday’s 4-1 defeat at Liverpool.
Manager Sam Allardyce likes to claim that Nolan is a vital figure in the dressing room – which is just as well as that’s where he’ll be staying for the next few weeks.
● Reports claim that Sam Allardyce could be sacked if West Ham lose to Sunderland on Saturday.
The Hammers hierarchy know they can’t afford a repeat of the Avram Grant saga three years ago when they failed to wield the axe and paid the price with relegation.
But things will surely need to get a lot worse before they seriously consider telling Allardyce his time is up.
Never mind, it’s only Spurs, Manchester United and Arsenal up next…
● The failure of referee Michael Oliver to even book Liverpool’s John Flanagan for a nasty challenge that left Stewart Downing needing a dozen stitches, before Kevin Nolan was sent off for a similar offence, proves one thing.
And that is that the top teams are allowed to do what they like while the likes of the Hammers get punished.
● Hammer Blows, by Kirk Blows, is available now from Amazon and pitchpublishing.co.uk