West Ham captain Kevin Nolan is revelling in his new tag of a modern-day David Platt as he looks to fire the Hammers towards a top-10 finish on their Barclays Premier League return.
Nolan was compared to the former England midfielder by manager Sam Allardyce following his decisive goal in West Ham’s 1-0 victory over Aston Villa.
The 30-year-old was presented with a simple finish by Ricardo Vaz Te but what impressed Allardyce was his ability to “ghost into the box”, to be in the right place at the right time.
“I have never heard the gaffer say that about me before but it is a compliment obviously as David was a great goalscorer throughout his career,” Nolan said.
“I haven’t modelled myself on him I must admit but I wouldn’t mind his record of goalscoring when I eventually finish.
“I like the fact that it (goalscoring) has always been a big part of my game. Hopefully I can continue to pop up in the box, keep getting these little goals.”
Nolan’s goal came with a hint of controversy, with the Aston Villa players convinced Vaz Te had been offside when Mark Noble’s free-kick fell to him.
The assistant referee Simon Long initially raised his flag but then changed his mind and Villa manager Paul Lambert accepted it was the right decision in the end.
Allardyce felt West Ham could have won by more. Carlton Cole had a penalty claim turned down and substitute Modibo Maiga saw a late shot cleared off the line.
At the back, West Ham contained Villa well. Darren Bent was never a threat as Hammers centre-back James Collins shone against the club he left just a fortnight ago.
“It’s been a very, very good day for us because we won our first game of the season and kept a clean sheet as well,” Allardyce said.
“A good start is so important to a team such as us because it helps secure your Premier position as early as possible.
“It takes the pressure off the players and the fans, and it makes everyone enjoy their football.”
Nolan recognises this is just a start and he is realistic – next week West Ham travel across the River Severn to take on a Swansea side that scored five against QPR – but not unambitious.
“I think if we were given 17th place now, we would take it,” Nolan said.
“But that is not taking anything away from what we think we can do this season.
“This year is about consolidating ourselves in the Premier League but you have to aim high and we want to aim high, to get close to 10th place as quickly as possible.
“If we get to safety as soon as is possible, then who knows where we can finish, how high we can finish?
“It is a big season for us. This is just the start.
“Hopefully we can go to Swansea and give a good account of ourselves there and come away with three points.”
While Nolan and Allardyce were more than satisfied with their start, Lambert was understandably left frustrated from his first game in charge.
Villa enjoyed the better of the opening quarter but for all their possession they could not test Jussi Jaaskelainen in the West Ham net.
Lambert bemoaned the absence of Gabriel Agbonlahor as Bent lacked service, with Allardyce’s statistics suggesting the England striker touched the ball only three times.
“We started well but it’s all very well having lots of ball but not if you don’t score,” Lambert said.
“We need to be able to service Darren Bent. Losing Gaby (Agbonlahor) was a big blow to us before this game.
“You’ve got about three and a half milliseconds to hit the ground running in the Premiership.”