Hammers captain, who was born and grew up in Toxteth and played for the Anfield club, says West Ham will be out for revenge for their 6-0 League Cup drubbing
By Simon Hart
He may not have endeared himself to his boyhood club when he was handed a red card at Anfield for a nasty stamp on Jordan Henderson in December but, all of a sudden, Kevin Nolan finds himself the most popular man on Merseyside.
The West Ham United captain, who was born and raised in Toxteth and spent five years on Liverpool’s books as a schoolboy, has been bombarded with messages from Liverpool fans urging him to spoil Manchester City’s party on Sunday afternoon, and the 31-year-old midfielder says that he would be only too happy to oblige.
“I’ve had lots of texts this week and more messages from Liverpool fans than ever before,” Nolan said. “My brother is on Twitter and he’s had lots of messages this week saying, ‘If he could do us a favour, it would be great’ and, ‘We’ll give him this’ and, ‘We’ll give him that’.
“It’s great to see Liverpool doing well. We’ve got a few boys who were there last year and still have friends there, and obviously with my affinity with Liverpool, it would be a nice way to finish off the season.”
West Ham’s three defeats at the hands of City this season, including a 6-0 League Cup semi-final drubbing which Nolan missed through suspension, suggest that there is little chance of City fluffing their lines, though Nolan has first-hand experience of how last-game jitters can affect the formbook when a top-flight title is at stake.
In 2008, he was part of the Bolton Wanderers team that travelled to Stamford Bridge for the final match of the season. Chelsea were level on points with Manchester United at the top of the table but, with an inferior goal difference, they needed to better United’s result.
“[Andrei] Shevchenko scored quite early on but Matty Taylor scored late on for us to make it a 1-1 draw,” Nolan said.
“I could see even with all those top players for Chelsea at the time and the way Mourinho was at the time, there was a lot of anxiety there. They knew they had to win the game to make sure they had a chance of winning the title and they didn’t.”
Six years on, Nolan is relishing the opportunity to have another say in the destination of the title, and he admits that he will probably spend Sunday evening celebrating with his Liverpool pals if he and his team-mates engineer City’s downfall and Brendan Rodgers’s men defeat Newcastle United.
Although he was released by Liverpool at the age of 14, Nolan retains more than a soft spot for the club and used to attend European nights at Anfield as a fan after signing for Bolton as a 16-year-old.
It was Sam Allardyce who handed Nolan his first professional contract at Bolton, and the uncertainty about Allardyce’s future at Upton Park following a lacklustre season provides an extra incentive to finish this campaign on a positive note for West Ham – and, by extension, Liverpool.
Nolan says that he is “surprised and quite shocked” to read reports that the game on Sunday will be Allardyce’s last in charge and that the rest of the players feel the same way. The club’s struggles this term, he insists, have been down to injuries to key players rather than any failings on the manager’s part.
“If you ask any lad in our dressing room, the gaffer’s got the backing of every one of us,” Nolan said. “I think it’s a sad occasion when we are talking about him getting sacked after the magnificent job he’s done over the last three seasons now.”
The speculation merely adds to the intrigue at the Etihad Stadium this afternoon, but can Nolan and his men really defy the odds and deliver a final twist?
“You’ve got to go there and believe you can win because if you just lay down another 6-0 could happen,” Nolan said. “That’s how good they are.
“But this is going to be a different game. All the pressure is on them. They’ve got to go out and win the game or get a draw, but you never know what can happen. We’ve got to hold on to the fact that we’ve got a solid foundation. We’ve kept 14 clean sheets this year.
“We got a real tonking off them in the semi-finals of the League Cup and we want to get a little bit of our own back. What better way to do it than in the last game of the season by stopping them winning the league?”