Big Sam hails Kevin Nolan turnaround after star turn against Southampton
19:15 22 February 2014
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce heaped praise on Kevin Nolan for the way he has recovered from the “lowest point of his career” to help propel the east Londoners away from relegation danger.
The 31-year-old’s captaincy was reviewed at the start of the year after he was sent off for kicking Fernando Amorebieta in the 2-1 defeat at Fulham.
It was Nolan’s second red card in less than four weeks after lunging at Jordan Henderson against Liverpool, leading Allardyce to say “there’s something wrong with his mentality at the minute”.
The Hammers skipper has certainly made amends since then, netting five goals in as many league games since returning from suspension.
The latest came in Saturday’s 3-2 defeat of Southampton, in which he also provided an assist and earned Allardyce’s praise as the Hammers moved to tenth.
“I can believe the turnaround because I know his qualities,” he said of Nolan, given a standing ovation when substituted against Saints.
“What I like about it is that he has gone about his job and made sure he repays everybody at the club for what happened.
“It was the lowest point of his career, I think, because it was not just one sending off but two in a short period of time.
“The contribution now is massive and it is not just the goals, but the pass he made for the first goal - a top quality pass at this level, which split open a very resilient Southampton defence. Long may it continue.
“Feeding off the front man is Kevin’s great quality. Everybody talks about being with Andy Carroll, but he hasn’t been there for a while and Kevin is still feeding off the front men and the balls in the box.
“Our quality in the final third is getting so much stronger now and that is why we are winning games of football because we’ve always been good at defending.”
Nolan has been key in West Ham’s revival, with their 100 per cent record in February taking them from the relegation zone to the relatively dizzy heights of the top half.
The latest win came courtesy of strikes from Matt Jarvis, Carlton Cole and Nolan, as the Hammers turned the match on its head following Maya Yoshida’s early header.
“It has been a fantastic run for us,” Allardyce said.
“The four wins on the trot from where we were is an outstanding performance by the players.
“I thank them for their efforts and the quality they are showing at the moment.
“In the Premier League it is all about the resilient qualities in defence and you have to score a goal, which today contributed massively in us winning this game.
“The three goals we scored were excellent and that got us back after going 1-0 down so early on. Credit to all the players.”