Kevin Nolan: West Ham United should go and enjoy it and attack it
It is 16 years since Kevin Nolan was part of a club which finished sixth in the Premier League and qualified for Europe – and now he wants to do it again.
Nolan featured in 36 of Bolton Wanderers’ 38 matches as the Trotters finished the 2004/05 season on 58 points – the same number the West Ham United squad he coaches have collected with three matches of the 2020/21 campaign still to play.
The first of those three will take place on Saturday evening, when the Irons travel to Brighton & Hove Albion knowing they probably need to win to keep their chances of a top-six finish and European destiny in their own hands.
And with his own experiences to draw upon, Nolan says the Hammers cannot let the situation affect their performance at the Amex Stadium.
We’ve put ourselves in a great position where we’ve got a great chance of coming out of it with European football
“You’ve just got to keep doing what you’ve been doing throughout the season,” the first-team coach said, instructively. “What’s been good about this group of boys is that they have the belief that they can beat anyone on their day and they’ve taken that belief on and stuck together, which has been the most pleasing thing for us as coaches and certainly for the gaffer [David Moyes].
“For me, I think we should go and enjoy it and attack it. We’ve put ourselves in a great position where we’ve got a great chance of coming out of it with European football.
“After a difficult time last season, we’ve now assembled a squad that is capable of challenging at the top end of the Premier League and we are where we are because we deserve to be.
“Now, what we’ve got to do is take it on for the next week and the message is clear from the gaffer: ‘Let’s try and get as many points on the board as we can and see where that leaves us come 23 May.”
Back in May 2005, Bolton twice came from a goal down to beat Everton - managed by his current boss Moyes - on the final day of the season to hold off Middlesbrough and finish sixth.
With the Toffees among three clubs breathing down West Ham’s neck in the current Premier League table, Nolan encouraged his players to emulate the Trotters and not to take anything for granted against Brighton on Saturday evening, at relegated West Bromwich Albion next Wednesday and home to Southampton a week on Sunday.
“You can never underestimate anybody in this league and that’s been the case ever since I came into the Premier League at 19-years-old,” he confirmed. “You can never underestimate and think ‘That’s an easy three points’ but what you can do is think that if you could pick three teams, you’d pick three who haven’t got anything to play for except a place or two. Those are the teams you want to be playing in the final week.
“Hopefully, they might take their eyes off the ball a bit and we can take advantage of that because we’ve got everything to play for.
“We’ve got to finish the season off in style and do it the right way, as we’ve done throughout the season. It wouldn’t be right if we thought we’ve already done brilliantly, then didn’t see this last week out.
“If we play well in the next three games, it gives us a massive opportunity to get maximum points which would be brilliant and then we wouldn’t be looking at anyone else to do us a favour.”