Tony Cottee Column: West Ham boss got tactics spot on at Brighton

Kevin Nolan scored his fourth goal for West Ham in the 1-0 win at Brighton on Monday – and with every one of them coming on the team’s travels I know fans are asking why the skipper appears to be more influential away from home.

I know from my own career that you can sometimes have spells when you score goals at home and not away – and vice versa – so there might not be any particular reason for it, although the obvious conclusion is that he’s playing in a more advanced role away from home.

What I will say about Kevin is that he’s a quality player and he’s been a huge addition to the dressing room. He’s a powerful character and that’s why he’s been made captain.

Fans are always going to try and judge players, but I don’t think you can necessarily do that after five weeks or five months. I think you judge them after the five-year contract and I believe that people will look back and know that Nolan has been a very good signing for us.

I thought it was an excellent three points at Brighton because it’s a difficult place to visit and there aren’t too many teams that are going to win down there.


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In terms of the game itself, it’s probably fair to say that Brighton played the better football. But defensively we looked very sound.

It’s admirable the way Brighton try to play the game and they had lots of possession. But there’s got to be an end product and if you took Craig Mackail-Smith out of the equation they didn’t really look as they were going to threaten our goal.

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Sam Allardyce named John Carew as a lone striker at Brighton and I don’t have a problem with that because there are times when you need to play different systems.

I’ve always said it – playing two strikers gives defenders a lot more to worry about than just one. But you can’t always do that.

It’s the manager’s call and you can’t say that Sam got it wrong against Brighton because we got the three points.

In an ideal world you’d play the silky football, but what do the fans want? Do we want to do what Brighton did and lose 1-0 or do we want to get the three points and hopefully get back into the Premier League?

There are going to be games when you have to grind out results, grab the three points, get on the bus as quickly as possible and go home.

The week began with the news that El Hadji Diouf had been taken on trial and I know some fans are unhappy about that.

There’s no doubt that Diouf is a very talented player; he’s just done silly things over the years that have not endeared him to supporters around the country.

But if he signs, gets in the first team and plays well, the fans will learn to like him because he’s a tryer and he can do different things.

But if he sulks and disrupts everything then the fans are entitled to moan. It’s a risk, but people said the same thing about Paolo Di Canio when Harry Redknapp signed him in 1999.

Another of my old clubs, Leicester City, visit Upton Park on Saturday and I was very surprised when I got a call from my colleagues at Sky Sports telling me that Sven Goran Eriksson had left his post as manager this week. It will be very interesting to see what sort of Leicester turns up at the weekend.

If the players liked Sven you might see another flat performance. But if they are pleased he’s gone they might come flying out of the traps.

My former boss Martin O’Neill has been linked with Leicester and if he returned I’d be very concerned by the threat it poses because he’s the sort of manager who could go in there and sort things out.

Only time will tell, but I suspect we will see Leicester in the top six by the end of the season.

Tony Cottee was talking to Kirk Blows

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