KEVIN Nolan thanked Newcastle United fans for welcoming him back to St James’s Park – after shooting down his old club.
Nolan’s first-half goal gave West Ham United a 1-0 win over Alan Pardew’s side yesterday.
The midfielder, a hugely influential figure on and off the pitch in Newcastle’s renaissance, was applauded on his first playing return to the stadium – unlike his team-mate Andy Carroll.
Gateshead-born Carroll, on loan at West Ham from Liverpool, was booed by home fans.
While ex-Newcastle striker Carroll was kept quiet, the same couldn’t be said of Nolan, who refused to celebrate his close-range goal out of respect for the club he served for two and a half years.
After the game, Nolan admitted it was an “emotional” afternoon on Tyneside.
“I’m delighted with the reception, and I’d like to thank them very much,” said Nolan, Sam Allardyce’s West Ham captain.
“It was emotional. I got quite a good reception coming off the bus. I was expecting a few boos.
“Seeing everyone, the old legs went to jelly. I had to compose myself and get ready for a game.”
Nolan was there to prod home Joey O’Brien’s wayward shot late in a first half desperately lacking in quality.
“As soon it normally hits the back of the net, the chicken (goal celebration) usually starts coming, but I wasn’t doing that,” added the 30-year-old.
“I said I wouldn’t celebrate, no matter what. I’m true to my word. Everyone knows I’m an honest lad.
“But I was absolutely delighted to get on the scoresheet and win the game. It was important. I’m just delighted to get a solid performance and a nice tap-in.”
Former Newcastle manager Allardyce paid tribute to Nolan – who he also managed at Bolton Wanderers – after the game, which saw his team climb into eighth place in the Premier League.
“His instincts in the box are there for all to see,” said Allardyce.
“It’s five goals he’s got in 11 games now in the Premier League. For a midfield player to be totalling up that sort of goal tally is fantastic from our point of view.”
Nolan scored 18 goals for Newcastle during the club’s promotion season in the Championship.
And he was handed the captain’s armband by then-manager Chris Hughton the following campaign.
Nolan left Newcastle last year after failing to agree a new deal at St James’s Park.