Nolan eyeing Premier League return

New West Ham captain Kevin Nolan believes he can help steer the club back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

The 29-year-old was part of the Newcastle United side which romped to the Championship title in 2009/10 having been relegated the previous year, and then scored 12 league goals as the Toon Army finished a respectable 12th on their return to the top flight.

His decision to drop down a division has surprised many, but Nolan is eager to be part of another promotion party. He was, however, keen to warn his new team-mates to expect a battle in the Championship, starting with a tough fixture against Cardiff City.

"You've got to find out who is going to be ready for the fight, because it's going to be a fight," he said.

"It's going to be backs against the wall at times with people lumping balls into our box.

"Everybody has got to raise their game because we are West Ham. We've got to be ready for that.

"We've got to make sure we are physically and mentally strong so that when it comes to Cardiff on August 7 we are ready and we can hit the ground running."

Morale and squad harmony in the Upton Park dressing room hit rock bottom as relegation loomed towards the end of last term, but Nolan insists he hasn’t seen any signs of a losing mentality from the current group during this pre-season.

"Sometimes when you join a club, especially a relegated side, there's a bit of a split in the camp and something has gone wrong,” he added.

"But here the lads are fantastic and there is a great team spirit.

"Hopefully now we can add to that. We can do a few more things during the season and we can get back to where we belong - the Premier League - because that's the goal."

Nolan has scored four goals against the Hammers in his career, but the Upton Park faithful will be much happier to see his chicken dance celebration this term.

And having given the 29-year-old the captain’s armband at Bolton and then brought him to Newcastle, new West Ham boss Sam Allardyce is now planning to rebuild the team around his new signing.

"He's a great leader on and off the field. It's very important to get a team spirit and unity,” Allardyce said.

"He is in the prime of his career. He has chosen to pay me a really good honour, not just that he wants to play for West Ham but that he wants to play for me again.

“Hopefully we will both benefit from that.”

By Josh Robbins