Filed: Friday, 18th May 2012
By: Staff Writer
It's 32 years since Billy Bonds became the last captain of West Ham United to lift a trophy at Wembley when John Lyall's side beat Arsenal 1-0. We joined Kevin Nolan for a chat ahead of Saturday's play-off Final as he seeks to emulate one of the club's favourite sons...
Kevin: how are preparations going ahead of Saturday?
We're just trying to be as relaxed as possible and make the whole thing not seem so far out there. We all know how much is riding on the game; we all know we're 90 minutes away from the Premier League. But this is what we're footballers for, for days like this and it's about us making sure we do the business on Saturday.
There's been no change whatsoever in what Sam [Allardyce] and Neil [McDonald] have done in the preparations leading up to the game. There's no special thing that we've got to produce. We just know that if we keep continuing the form we have done over the last five or six weeks then we're going to give ourselves a really good chance of making the Premier League at six o'clock on Saturday night.
It's been a long time since you've played Cardiff. Has that been a bit of a problem?
Yeah, it's been ten or eleven days hasn't it. It is quite weird that, it is something they will probably have to look at. But the gaffer gave us a few days off to spend with our families and a few of the lads done their own thing, got away from the training ground. Because you've been there for eleven months of the year or so. So we've had a bit of downtime but come back this week and the focus is on Saturday.
We've just got to treat it as a normal game. We understand the importance of it but we've got to make sure we do the business like we have done for the majority of the season. We'll give ourselves the best chance of coming away with a win on Saturday.
I bet Jack Collison was pleased there were a few extra days, wasn't he?
Yeah, definitely, that's another positive thing on our behalf. Jack's shoulder isn't as bad as we first thought and hopefully he's going to be fit for Saturday. We're absolutely delighted that we will - hopefully - have a full squad to pick from. That's the best possible outcome because you want the two teams who are in the play-off Final to be able to field their strongest side, so we get the best game possible.
What's the key to this game for West Ham?
Just winning it! Look, there's battles going on all over the pitch and we've got to make sure that our game plan beats their game plan. We'll have a game plan from the start to the finish on Saturday and if we execute that to perfection we'll get the result. And it's the same the other way around, if they execute their game plan then they're going to win. They've got a very experienced squad, a lot of their players have been there and done it before so although everyone's counting us as favourites I think they're playing on that a bit much.
Of course you smashed eight goals past them as well?
But that's gone now. 46 games in, that's gone - they've finished fifth in the table and that's all forgotten about. Them beating Birmingham's forgotten about, it's just about 90 minutes and two teams. We all know Blackpool are a very good side and we're not going to underestimate them no matter how well we played against them in the season because this is a completely different game and there's a lot more riding on it. So it's about us handling all that and making sure we execute our game plan to perfection - and if we do that, I'm sure we'll come out on top.
You went up with Newcastle two years ago; what would it mean to you to do it with West Ham?
And I went up with Bolton in the play-off Final beating Preston which was a fantastic day, I really enjoyed that. The way we won the league with Newcastle a couple of seasons ago was another fantastic memory of mine so hopefully it'll be another one and that'll be three times I've played a season in this league and got myself out of it in fantastic circumstances.
But there's nobody who deserves it more than the fans and the people who've worked so hard at this club all year round. So one big, massive push from us all on Saturday to achieve what, when I came here in the summer, I set out to achieve - and that's to get this fantastic club back in the Premier League, because that's where we all want to be playing. It's going to be a great occasion, we've got to make sure we don't let it get the better of us and we've got to really enjoy it and do the business.
FULLY FOCUSSED: Nolan's fixed on play-off success
Will this one be special because you've come through the play-offs and because of the amount of changes that have gone on in this club?
Yeah, I think it's probably going to be the best one because it's such a massive turnaround in such a short space of time. I've also got to mention both Chairmen because of the way they've handled everything this season and the way they handled bringing me here by absolutely selling the club - not that they needed to sell the club, they didn't really need to because I already knew about it.
But it's just the way they've showed their determination and desire to make sure this club succeeds. Their ownership is there for all to see and especially for me, with them being here on a regular basis. It's going to be absolutely fantastic [on Saturday] and hopefully I'll be celebrating with all them people on Saturday evening, because they deserve it - as well as all the fans who turn up week in, week out, home and away for us. They're the people who deserve it and the people you see here looking after us all the time, 24/7.
Carlton [Cole] says he's turned down a lot of ticket requests; are you in the same boat?
Yeah! I've got virtually all my family coming down; uncles, aunties, my granddad and obviously my mum and dad. But all the people coming to watch me have come and watched me since I was a kid, since I started out. They were at that game against Preston in my first play-off Final; the majority of them are going to be there on Saturday so that's pleasing. They all want to support us so I'll be hoping to celebrate with them if we win the game on Saturday.
Hear the captain's personal message to the supporters
Have you had to make any awkward phone calls to your mates to say "sorry"!?
I just ignore them!
There's going to be 40,000 West Ham fans in there on Saturday. As captain of the club, have you got a special word for them?
Just thanks very much for all your support all season. I cannot believe the actual support after all the hoo-hah at the start of the season. The support they've given us throughout the season has been absolutely amazing and we just ask them for one more push because it'll be massive for us.
They've undoubtedly out sung every club we've played against this year so I'm not even going to ask for that because they've been fantastic. That's just standard by their own standards and I hope we give them what they deserve - and that's to be able to go out and enjoy Saturday night after us winning the game on Saturday afternoon.
How aware are you as players of what it means to the fans? It's been 32 years since Billy Bonds lifted a trophy there.
We've got a lot of lads here who have come through the ranks who are going to be around and about on Saturday. Probably three or four of them are going to be out on that pitch, plus you've got Rob Green who's been here for six years. So everyone knows.
I've only been here a year and I know what it means to them to be back amongst the Premier League and the elite teams of English football. We want to do it for them but we can't look too far out of the box, we've got to make sure we stick together and do the business - and then, hopefully, enjoy it all after the final whistle goes and West Ham are in the Premier League.
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