Future and Past – the Captain of West Ham

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Wolves’ sporting Director Matt Hobbs told the club’s official web site last year that he believed that skipper Kilman was ‘the soul of the team’. Certainly with our own Kurt Zouma believed to be transfer-listed and in any case having had an underwhelming year wearing the armband, Julen Lopetegui will be searching for a leader to lead his new look West Ham in a fresh direction. Few clear candidates seem suitable within the existing squad, many of whom are likely to be exiting before the end of the window in August.

West Ham and now Newcastle, according to The Telegraph, are battling it out with offers to Wolves for Kilman’s signature. The Magpies reportedly entered the bidding with an offer of a player plus cash, late on Saturday which has similarly been rejected. Presumably the Wolves captain is Lopetegui’s choice for our own armband.

Fans might wish for the ‘through the ranks’ growth of a team captain, learning the West Ham way and the heritage of our club more in the style of Mark Noble. It certainly hasn’t often been the case that our leaders on the pitch have been ‘homegrown’:

Steve Lomas was made captain just months after his move from Manchester City in 1997. Harry Redknapp gave him the role and he remained for four years, his style being the lead-by-example outgoing performer in a team including Neill Ruddock and John Muncur, which meant there was no shortage of character. The team performed well, staying mid or upper table for much of his spell as skipper.

Club legend and occasional liability Paolo Di Canio was transferred under a cloud from Sheffield Wednesday in 1999 after the 11 game ban for pushing over referee Paul Alcock. It was therefore a brave act by Glenn Roeder to make him captain in 2001: Di Canio didn’t disappoint being sometimes brilliant, sometimes barmy and fell out with his manager frequently, notably the ‘F… you!’ Rant aimed at Roeder after being substituted against Spurs. His manager refused to criticise him even though TV viewers with no lipreading skills could clearly grasp the content of the outburst.

Lucas Neill arrived from Birmingham in 2007 and was made captain for the first time in August of that year and provided phlegmatic, outspoken Aussie style strong leadership. He helped to steady the ship after his predecessor Nigel Reo-Coker’s somewhat acrimonious departure to Aston Villa.

Matthew Upson on the other hand might have been a decent defender but was a largely anonymous and ultimately unsuccessful leader as we finished 17th and then 20th during his tenure. From memory his leadership seemed overshadowed by Scott Parker on the pitch who always seemed to be the one urging the team on.

And of course, Kevin Nolan arrived following West Ham’s relegation in 2011, thanks largely to Sam Allardyce who knew a leader when he saw one and signed him from Newcastle who had themselves just been promoted. Nolan’s forceful personality was just what was needed at the time, and we were promoted at the first attempt under his leadership in a memorable play-off final.

If we are successful in beating off Newcastle interest, and coming up with an acceptable fee thought to be north of £35 million – then  Kilman should be more ‘Kevin Nolan’ than ‘Matthew Upson’ in style should our Head Coach award him the armband. Good, strong, vocal leadership seemed lacking last season and a captain who stands loud and proud on the pitch and inspires others is sorely needed.

Hopefully, however, he will avoid replicating Christian Dailly who was captain for one season in 2003 and remains the only West Ham skipper to have scored a goal with his groin.

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Like everyone else, lifelong WHU fan and season ticket holder in old BMU stand at Upton Park from 2003. Billy Bonds these days with my adult son and impatiently waiting for my Grandson to be old enough to initiate him before his mum grabs him for Man U. All opinions are my own very biased ones.


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