WHO Poll
Q: 2021/22 What competition should we prioritise this season?
a. The league is our bread & butter, so this year let's have a club sandwich
b. We're owed an FA Cup after Gerrard nicked our last one in 06, our name's on it in 22
c. A bye to the League Cup 3rd round gives us a good start, let's make it count
d. The Europa is our best ticket to the Champions League, this is the one
e. What's wrong with you, let's do the lot, has the quadruple ever been done

Irish Hammer 2:11 Mon May 24
Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
Kevin Nolan: ‘People chat about Mount, Foden, Grealish but Declan Rice is England’s most important player’

Roshane Thomas
When Kevin Nolan was surprisingly jettisoned as manager by Notts County, he was inundated with messages to the point where an experienced Premier League manager felt compelled to get in touch.

The 38-year-old had guided the then League Two side to the play-offs during the 2017-18 season, where they lost 5-2 on aggregate to Coventry City. The team made great progress, considering they narrowly avoided relegation a year earlier, so it came as a shock when West Ham United’s first-team coach was dismissed in August 2018 by owner Alan Hardy.

“When I got sacked, Brendan Rodgers sent me a lovely text,” Nolan tells The Athletic. “I thought it was one of my mates taking the Michael pretending to be Brendan. I didn’t know until not that long ago that it was actually him.

“I thought, ‘Brendan Rodgers? That doesn’t sound right.’ But that’s what happens because they all understand, having been in that situation. There’s a real togetherness and it’s great. I’m sort of on the bottom of that ladder and the LMA do lots of great stuff and you have a mentor as a young coach. So I speak to a lot of the older coaches and Sammy Lee was my mentor — every now and then we’ll keep in touch.

“The message Brendan sent me was so genuine and so lovely of him to do that. I’ve had the chance to thank him for the text. I didn’t text back initially, I think he knows why now but we had a chuckle about it.”

Nolan’s first spell in management was as player-manager at Leyton Orient in 2016. He signed a two-and-a-half-year contract having replaced Ian Hendon with the club 11th in League Two but lasted four months under the ownership of Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti. He was manager of Notts County for 19 months and in February 2020, West Ham appointed Nolan and Paul Nevin as first-team coaches until the end of the season.

Kevin Nolan Notts County
Nolan says he has learnt a lot from his Notts County experience (Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)
Since then, David Moyes’ backroom staff of Nolan, Nevin, Alan Irvine, Stuart Pearce and Xavi Valero have helped play a key role in the resurgence. Nolan is keen to discuss the camaraderie in the squad, Tomas Soucek’s impact, why he appreciates football a lot more but when the topic turns to Declan Rice, there is a change in tone from the former West Ham captain.

“I get on really well with Declan —I have a brotherly love for him,” he says. “He’s a proper player and he’s going to be massive for England in the Euros. I read the papers and they speak about Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish but Dec is going to be more important than all of those players. If we had Dec for the six games we missed him in, I believe that coming into this match against Southampton we could’ve been in the Champions League spots.

“That’s how highly I rate him and that’s no disrespect to anyone else in our squad. This lad just has it all: athleticism, he can pass it, good at heading, defending, he can run. He is absolutely top-notch and most of all he’s the most humble lad. I hope that he goes right to the top and I hope it will be here at West Ham. He’s taken us to new levels, certainly this season with his performances, and the quality we’ve been able to have around him.

“Hopefully he will be here for a couple more years to lead this team in the way he has this season. It says everything when he’s been out for five weeks, and he only had two days off, and then he’s played two games in four days. That’s very tough with the physicality of the Premier League and for him to do that and produce the performances he has is an absolute credit to the boy. That shows his determination in how much he wants to improve. I still think he can get better.”

Nolan scored 31 goals in 157 games for West Ham during his four-year spell. He played a pivotal role in their promotion-winning 2011-12 season and re-establishing the club in the Premier League thereafter. It has recently become a trend for the club to appoint former players as coaches. The likes of Steve Potts, Carlton Cole, Paul Konchesky and Zavon Hines — who made a combined total of 900 appearances — have coaching roles within the academy.

When Moyes was reappointed manager in December 2019, he was finalising his backroom staff. Nolan, who was out of work, was keen to enhance his managerial acumen under him.

“When Moyesy was back, I realised that Billy McKinlay was with him previously and at the time Stuart Pearce wasn’t coming back,” he says. “I’d been with Moyes at the LMA awards with Sam Allardyce the season before. I’d been on their table and we had a couple of drinks together. I gave Moyesy a call and said, ‘I’m trying to get back in, I’d love to have the opportunity to come and work with you and gain experience.’ I’d done the management side of it and I just thought it would be a fantastic opportunity for me to put myself in front of someone different and learn.

“He said, ‘I’d like to bring you in and we’ll see how it goes until the end of the season.’ Thankfully it went well, we avoided relegation and then we agreed to stay on this year and now we’re in the process of signing new contracts. It’s nice as a coaching staff to be in that position so we’re hoping we can get it sorted so we can focus on getting West Ham where I always believed it should be and where it belongs.

“In pre-season we said we wanted to push on this year and weren’t going to be in a relegation fight. The boss has really good ambitions for the club. He wants to try and get every last drop from everyone. You’ve seen that with the displays on the pitch. We wanted to be in the top ten and get as high as we can. Hats off to the lads for what we’ve done this year. We ain’t finished yet, we want to finish with another win in front of our home fans. We’ve been desperate for them to come back.”

Nolan is often on the receiving end of jokes with members of staff insisting he has all the secrets on his iPad, which he uses to give instructions to substitutes before they enter the field. Before the 3-1 win away to West Bromwich Albion, Nolan laid out the cones before the warm-up and there is a running joke among the coaches that whenever Pearce does the same task the cones are never in a straight line.

This togetherness has enabled West Ham to defy expectations this season. They need a point against Southampton to secure qualification for the Europa League. Following the midweek win at the Hawthorns, Nolan embraced Jesse Lingard and — providing the loanee scores — Nolan hopes he will do a particular dance.

“When players come in, we want to make it a family environment where they feel welcome and can express themselves,” says Nolan. “Jesse has been himself and we’ve seen his personality on the pitch and in training. We have a lot of banter and the biggest thing for him is he’s been able to express himself. It’s had a massive impact on us and for him. Hopefully he will also have a massive impact in the summer with England. I’ve been teaching him the chicken dance so we might see that from him at some point as well.

“I want to be the link between the boss and the players. The lads have been superb and winning breeds togetherness. Last season we brought everyone together and we’ve built on that. They’ve done things this year that no one believed they could. When you look at all the squads across the league and all the money that’s been spent around us, it’s testament to these boys that they’ve been able to match other clubs and go toe-to-toe with them. We’re determined that we’ll come back next year and work even harder.

“Tomas Soucek has played 37 league games, which is incredible. Aaron Cresswell has only missed one or two, the same with Lukasz Fabianski, Dec has missed six games. We have players who have been real mainstays, plus the likes of Manuel Lanzini who have also been brilliant. Everyone has a part to play. If they don’t want to be a part of it then there’s only one way and that’s to go out through the door. The gaffer wants players training every day and if you get an opportunity you need to take it.”

The biggest compliment to West Ham’s progress this season, is there isn’t an obvious choice for the Hammer of the Year award. When The Athletic asked supporters to cast their vote via a poll, Soucek slightly edged it winning 34.5 per cent of the votes. But Vladimir Coufal, Rice and Cresswell have been hugely important. Had it not been for hamstring and ankle injuries, then Michail Antonio and Angelo Ogbonna would be in contention.

Soucek has scored 10 league goals this season, the most by a midfielder for the club in a single campaign since Nolan in 2012-13 (also 10).

“For £19 million it looks like a snip now for what he’s done,” says Nolan. “He’s a lovely lad, he’s great to work with and he always wants to learn. Tomas is one of those players who always find themselves in those positions, which I used to do. Sometimes it’s just a natural instinct. He’s the first player since me to score ten league goals and we had a chat about it the other day. He’s in touch with what’s going on and I told him, ‘I hope you beat my record.’ He’s had a great impact and England should be aware of him this summer.”

Nolan is still in the infancy of his coaching career, but the shock of losing his job at Notts County and periods of unemployment means he appreciates football a lot more now.

“It’s amazing because you speak to a lot of players and they say, ‘Once football is finished I’m done,’” Nolan says. “That’s not me and there’s a few boys in our dressing room who I banter with and I’m saying to them ‘Listen, do your badges because it’s the easiest thing to do when you’re playing.’ I was a bit lazy when I was playing. I could’ve done all my badges.

“When you’re out of football, you realise how much you love it. I always believed I was going to stay in the game. It’s my life, my passion and I hope I’ll be able to stay in, whether it’s managing or coaching. When you look at someone like Roy Hodgson, I can see myself being like that if I get the opportunities.”

(Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

ChesterRd 12:41 Tue May 25
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
Good interview. It was very unusual for a PL player to leave a club at his relatively young age and basically not get picked up as a player again. He was out for a while before he got a lower league player/coaching gig. I don't think he looked after himself as a player. However he's clearly able to establish a rapport with people which is really important when coaching / managing. It's really positive to read that the atmosphere is so good around the coaching and playing staff, the players all seem to have great comradery and Moyes must play a big part in that.

jakehammer 10:57 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
thanks Irish, another great article. you're getting bloody good at this son and long may it continue.
As for Nolan and despite him being BFS's man, i like the fellah and think that he's very good for us like stuart pearce is.
we've got ourselves a decent manager now backed up by a good coaching team. it can only bode well for the future and our upcoming european tour. COYI !!!.

Mex Martillo 7:51 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
Doesn’t surprise me that he comes across so well, you can see it on the side lines, he is so involved and so energetic to drive the team on and he is enjoying it. I think he could be a very good manager.
He was a good player a scored a load of goals, but it was hard to like him as a player as he was BFS man. I never felt BFS was West Ham and I felt the same about Nolan at the time. They BFS and Nolan were there for a job, not for West Ham.
I think he is there for us now.

Thanks Irish, keep them coming, good reading

Hammer and Pickle 7:21 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
Yes. He’s clearly optimistic Rice will get to the top with us in the next couple of years.

Bloke’s clearly off his rocker now we are in Europe and the Anointed Ones of N17 are slumming it in the playoffs, isn’t he David.

David L 7:11 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
First Nolan says he hopes Rice makes it to the top with us, then one paragraph later he says he hopes Rice will be here for a couple more years.

Lato 6:58 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
Some of you lot need to read Tony Adams autobiography to get a real insight to what a piss head footballer is really like

Side of Ham 6:58 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
Lee Trundle 6:36 Mon May 24

You're right Trundle it's not annoying and is very positive for us.

I really like his involvement at the club and he seems to have a good link to the players.

Lee Trundle 6:46 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
Footballer who plays for West Ham United likes a drink SHOCKER!

Block 6:41 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
Not just a piss head either, Griffin son.

Was always in bar15, but now seems to frequent the Merry Fiddlers.

stewie griffin 6:40 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
never get the 'good captain' stuff - he got sent off in the first 10 minutes against Wall, and then got sent off twice in the space of a month in the middle of a relegation battle. He was an absolute liability.

He was also a far bigger pisshead than Carroll and was well known around for being the more gobby of the two, a typical chippy scouser.

But, the squad seem to really like him, and a bloke i grew up with was his number 2 at Notts County, says he's a lovely bloke and won't have a bad word said against him, and his is one of very few opinions i trust.

Lee Trundle 6:36 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
Why is that annoying? Surely it's a positive?

Side of Ham 6:33 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
I always thought the same of him at Bolton as well Pee Wee, but somehow he always managed to maintain that reputation with either a goal or a performance of a captain at the key time.

Annoying, but he seems to have a real link with the players and could be one of the many reasons we have a good dressing room.

Pee Wee 6:17 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
Thought he was overrated as a player and summed up our dire football under Sam.

Thought he was completely overrated as a captain too.

Seems to be well liked by our squad and playing a good role now though.

The Fonz 6:14 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
One of my favourite captains we have had at the club.

El Scorchio 5:29 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
Great article. I like Nolan as well.

I think the negativity is 100% the Allardyce connection.

ChillTheKeel 4:20 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
He was a great player and proper captain. Yes he played past his sell by date and had the world's worst goal celebration but that's no reason to slate him.

riosleftsock 4:17 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
Nice article that Irish, ta

Lato 2:53 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
Good one again Irish.

Lee I cannot work out why some of our fans never took to him as a player. Yeah ok he was BFS's right hand man but come on he gave us three good seasons scoring over thirty goals in the process. Good Captain too.

Charoo 2:41 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
I felt he was very limited especially in his last season as a player and I didn’t like how much he played for us - however I’ve met him and he seems a top bloke, if you played with him or for him I think you’d want to do well for him.

Where he says about being the bridge between the players and the manager - I can see how he’d fit that role and be very good at it.

He is seemingly along with the rest of the staff doing a great job. Long may it continue.

charleyfarley 2:24 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
Thanks again Irish another good article

Lee Trundle 2:16 Mon May 24
Re: Decent Interview with Kevin Nolan. (Declan Rice featured)
I know he gets a lot of hate on here, but I like Nolan.

He was a good captain for us, and I still think he'll make a very good manager for someone one day.

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