West Ham’s second leg Europa League qualifier against Maltese side FC Birkirkara was tougher than expected, with the Hammers being taken to penalties after a goal by former Italy international Fabrizio Miccoli. Ironically West Ham have picked up two red cards already in the competition after entering it through the fair play table, with James Tomkins seeing red last night after throwing a player to the ground.
For many years Mark Noble has been dubbed “Mr West Ham” after progressing through the youth system and becoming a first team regular. However this title means more to the fans than just a youth product, with many calling for him to take the captain’s armband from Kevin Nolan. However last night he showed that he may not be ready to lead the squad when he provoked Miccoli, puffing out his cheeks at him to mock his weight.
While many fans laughed this off it is not the sort of thing you expect from your teams captain, who should be able to keep his cool. Nolan also struggled with this, being sent off twice in the 2013-14 season and picking up a string of yellow cards.
To further break down Nobles chances you have to note that his position in the first time is not as certain as it had been, with new boy Pedro Obiang looking to stake his claim, while Diego Poyet has had a strong preseason, being lauded for his performance in Malta.
All of this leads to one question. Is there a better choice? While Nolan is still at the club he is unlikely to be first choice and Bilic will want a captain who will start games. Many names have floated about, including yet to sign midfielder Alex Song, however one name in particular stands out for me. New Zealand international Winston Reid showed his devotion to the club when he signed a new long term contract earlier this year, despite reported interest from Arsenal and Liverpool. Calm and collected at the back Reid already has experience in this role as he captains his international team. In my eyes there is no better man for the job than Reid.
Assessing the competition
To justify my choice I will briefly scan over the other options. Adrian is a fan favourite since signing on a free transfer and would be a strong leader, however his unpredictable temper, seen in his confrontation with Marion Balotelli earlier in the season, makes him more difficult to choose. Cheikhou Kouyate is also a popular option, however having been with us for just one year he isn’t as familiar with the club or the league as Reid is.