Play-offs hold no fear for Nolan as Hammers captain eyes Premier League return
21:30 GMT, 27 April 2012
Kevin Nolan’s face lights up as the West Ham skipper’s thoughts drift back more than a decade to a Monday afternoon in Cardiff.
As a fresh-faced 18-year-old, he helped Bolton beat Preston in the First Division Play-Off final in 2001 to clinch promotion to the Premier League.
The sold-out Hammers crowd at Upton Park on Saturday might not share his sentiments, but Nolan would relish the opportunity to lead the club back to the top flight in a similar manner.
Leading the way: Kevin Nolan (left) hopes to captain West Ham to promotion
The midfielder is in a relaxed mood at the club’s training ground as he reminisces about past glories. West Ham’s destiny is out of their hands as they host Hull; all they can do is win and hope that 98 miles away at St Mary’s, Coventry can earn at least a point against Southampton.
Nolan initially toes the party line, focusing only on the visit of Nicky Barmby’s side, who themselves have nothing but pride to play for.
But the 29-year-old, who is bidding for a hat-trick of promotions after helping Newcastle to the Championship title in 2010, knows the odds are heavily stacked against Sam Allardyce’s men. He already has more than an eye on the Wembley showpiece on May 19.
‘I must admit the day at the Millennium Stadium was so special,’ he says.
‘Don’t get me wrong, what we achieved at Newcastle was brilliant, but the final was fantastic and I’m hoping that if we can’t get the automatic spot, I’ll have another day out that I can look back on in ten years’ time.
Repeat performance: Nolan helped Bolton win the play-off final in 2001
‘We’ve got to win the game on Saturday and we’ll go in to the play-offs full of confidence and look forward to seeing who we get. We’ll prepare well and come May 19 we’ll be celebrating.
‘We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves but that’s the ultimate aim if Saturday doesn’t go to plan.’
Nolan, despite having more seasons behind him than in front, retains his youthful enthusiasm as he excitedly predicts a bright future. He will finally be joined in London this summer by his wife and two young children, further evidence of his commitment to the Claret and Blue cause.
‘I’m at a club that’s rebuilding and I just wanted to be part of it,’ he concludes.
‘I did it with Bolton and started it with Newcastle. You can see what happened there in a short space of time with the right people at the club. I believe that given the time and resources Sam can turn this club around and get it back to where it belongs.’
If that happens to be via the play-offs, Nolan for one won’t be complaining.