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West Ham’s Nolan the diplomat steals hearts and then the points

Kevin Nolan of West Ham applauds the Newcastle fans prior to kick-off. Photo credit: Rob Newell/TGSPHOTO Kevin Nolan of West Ham applauds the Newcastle fans prior to kick-off. Photo credit: Rob Newell/TGSPHOTO

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
11:00 AM

Hammers skipper Kevin Nolan was heralded by West Ham and Newcastle fans alike on Sunday

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There are some players who return to their old clubs to a crescendo of boos and hatred – Frank Lampard, Jermain Defoe and Nigel Reo-Coker spring to mind. But there are others who return like long lost sons.

On Sunday at St James’ Park we saw both sides of the coin. Kevin Nolan was heralded, Andy Carroll was castigated, yet it was both of them who combined to help steal the points back to London.

Nolan is fast becoming the man of the moment in the Premier League. Not gifted with great speed or skill, he nevertheless leads by example, rallies his troops and then comes up with the goals that win football matches.

He is also something of a diplomat. He left Newcastle for West Ham in a £3 million deal in the summer of 2011, but in the week leading up to his return to the north east, he made sure just how much the Toon army meant to him.

And after scoring the only goal on Sunday, he was quick to do the same afterwards.

“It was a bit emotional when I first walked in,” he said. “I can’t thank the fans enough for the reception that they gave me, it was absolutely unbelievable.

“I had a fantastic time here. I love the place and I loved everything about this club when I was here. I’ve got fond memories, great friends and family here – my boy is a Geordie!”

Nolan’s fifth goal of the Premier League campaign was a typical one from him.

Mark Noble’s cross was cleared as far as Joey O’Brien and when he scuffed his shot it was Nolan, waiting on the shoulder of the last man, who reacted superbly to score from close range.

“Overall it was a fantastic performance from us,” he said. “I was delighted to get the goal and I was delighted with how the day went. I would like to thank the Newcastle fans for the fantastic reception they gave me today.

“But I couldn’t have asked to go to a better club than West Ham for the following they have got and for the commitment they show.”

For a moment when the goal went in, you sensed Nolan preparing to do his trademark chicken dance celebration, but he checked, stopped dead and simply waited for his team-mates to engulf him.

It was another triumph for his diplomatic skills.

“I did say I would never celebrate against them because of the support I received when I was here and if I was to move on from West Ham I would never celebrate against them.”

Listening to him talk, an infectious, cheeky smile on his face, you could see how he might inspire his team-mates to better things and he certainly mustered the troops on Sunday when Newcastle were throwing the kitchen sink at the defence.

“It was backs to the wall at times, but you have got to expect that against Newcastle,” he said. “They are a fantastic side, but they had some fantastic players out and we knew that we had to capitalise on that.

“I think we did that, so credit to the lads. There is so much determination in that dressing room and I am delighted to lead them.”

They are no doubt, delighted to have him and the Newcastle fans who praised his so highly, must be wondering how they let him slip away.

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