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West Ham midfielder leaps to the defence of under-fire skipper

Kevin Nolan (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images) Kevin Nolan (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013
3:50 PM

West Ham midfielder Mark Noble has leapt to the defence of under-fire captain Kevin Nolan.

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Former Newcastle midfielder Nolan, who scored 10 goals last term, has not found the net since the opening day of this season and has been substituted to the sound of ironic cheers from Hammers fans in their last three matches.

The 31-year-old lasted just 58 minutes of Tuesday night’s 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace, which dragged Sam Allardyce’s side back into the relegation battle in the Barclays Premier League.

But Noble insists his midfield partner, who signed a five-year contract in 2011, still has an important role to play at Upton Park.

“Of course he has, he is our captain,” said Noble.

“Kev is brilliant in the dressing room and he has been unbelievable for us. He is big enough and strong enough to handle all that sort of stuff, so I am sure he will be fine.

“He is the gaffer’s man and he looks after the dressing room and all of the problems in there. You need someone like that.

“I do not think the gaffer has taken him off because of the way he was playing, he just wanted to change things.”

Alarm bells are starting to ring in east London with West Ham winning just one of their seven last matches - and things are likely to get worse before they get better.

They could find themselves in the bottom three following Saturday’s trip to Liverpool, where they have not won since 1963.

And they will head to Anfield without midfield starlet Ravel Morrison, who let his frustrations boil over after the final whistle at Selhurst Park when he shoved Palace defender Joel Ward in the face.

The former Manchester United hot-head was lucky to escape a red card but his fifth booking of the season means he will serve a one-match ban.

However, Noble insisted: “He has not been any trouble all season.

“He has lost the game and he is frustrated, we all are. Emotions are high and if you take that away from him, you take a lot of his ability away.

“He got booked which means he misses the Liverpool game so that is going to be a miss. He is a young lad and he is still learning.

“I am sure he is going to get kicked a lot because of his ability. He has got to learn to deal with that if he wants to do the tricks and skills that he does.”

By contrast, things are looking a lot brighter at Palace after Marouane Chamakh’s 42nd-minute header secured a victory in Tony Pulis’ first home match in charge and lifted them off the foot of the table.

They have been further boosted by the news skipper Mile Jedinak has signed a new long-term contract, and the Australia midfielder feels Pulis can pull off a great escape.

“The new gaffer can take a lot of credit for the win,” he said. “He set us out in a way that he wants to and the boys have responded to that really well.

“Hopefully this can be the start of more good things to come. It is still early on but he demands the respect of everybody and that is great to have around. We are all enjoying it, that is for sure.”

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