So that's it then, based on last season's table, a win at home to Burnley will ward off the spectre of relegation to the old Third Division!
I say this only slightly tongue in cheek because there were those who, following relegation, warned that going through the Championship, like a backstreet vindaloo in New Delhi through the tummy of a five year old, was a distinct possibility. There was talk of all the players leaving, of no money for replacements, of a team of kids and aged yard dogs signed on frees. And then we bought Nolan.
And say what you like about Captain Kev's performances on the pitch, his signing was like a defibrillator for the West Ham corpse. Yes Doctor Evil was in place to reanimate the monster, but even Frankenstein needed what Shelley called "the spark of life"; and Nolan supplied it.
The interesting question is, would we be as successful had we retained Parker and not signed Nolan; and for all Scotty's rave reviews last year and this, and Player of the Season award, I think the answer very obviously would be no. I insisted last season that Nolan was the real Player of the Season because his goals and assists kept Newcastle up, whereas Parker's energy just saw us scamper to relegation, and I think Nolan is proving my point even whilst not playing well.
As Allardyce says, Nolan will score 12 to 14 goals come the end of the season, and that will almost certainly be the difference between the play offs and outright promotion. Goals win games, and Nolan supplies them - not only because of those he scores but because of the headache he causes to defenders every time we attack. They know he is a threat, they have to track him and mark him, and that makes space for others.
So whilst I have not been a big fan of his personal performances this season, there's no taking away from Nolan that he has been absolutely critical to our dramatic turn around. He is a captain. He doesn't charge around like a headless chicken, like Parker did in Claret and Blue, but he instills confidence and composure instead.
Look at our performance at Coventry. It was uninspiring but it was not uninspired. Had Parker been in the team as the leader, our play would have been frenetic when we were a goal behind, with Scotty running up blind alleys, flying into tackles and conceding free kicks; and an edge of desperation would have crept into to our play. But Nolan is different. He smiles. He looks languid. He somehow knows that it will all turn out all right and his confidence is infectious.
Look at the Derby game. The first time he touched the ball, he bisected two team mates and conceded a throw in. Inept! But did Nolan let that worry him? Did he hell as like. He just got on with it as usual, doing what he does, in the way he does it, and turning nasty at one point - on the pitch rather than in the dressing room - when he felt the team were not performing as they should do. And then he drilled in that brilliant goal, and won us the game in a flash of genius.
And at Miserablebrough yesterday, we saw the other side, winding up opponents, antagonising them into losing self control, provoking Boro players into little vendettas rather than playing to the team shape. It was crafty and effective. Did Nolan stand out on the night like Parker always did in a West Ham shirt? No. He just did a job and in doing a job, he did a number on the opposition. Whereas Parker always looked anxious, desperate, hurried, frantic and passionate, Nolan drifted through the game facilitating the team rather than trying to be the team himself.
Parker has found his role at Tottenham. He is a cog and the team plays around him. Sadly at West Ham, Parker played as if he was the machine, charging here, there and everywhere and infecting the team with a sense of desperation and helplessness. If Scotty can't win it, what chance do we stand?
Why are we winning now? Because we traded Parker for Nolan, trading desperate energy for languid control. To compare the two as players is as stupid as comparing a centre back to a centre forward but to compare them as leaders and examples to the team is perfectly valid. And Nolan is exactly what West Ham needed, a level headed leader who wins games, rather than a passionate whirlwind who was always fighting off defeat.