Kevin Nolan has praised West Ham United's board for refusing to bow to pressure from disgruntled fans to sack Sam Allardyce, who endured a long, hard winter managing the east London club.

The midfielder – who claims the majority of West Ham supporters remain behind the manager – believes such loyalty could well be rewarded by European qualification at the end of the 2014-15 season.

West Ham's directors have seen their stance vindicated by the team's recent renaissance, with Monday night's 2-1 win at Sunderland leaving West Ham 11th, 11 points clear of the relegation zone they were once favourites to occupy in May.

"You have to admire the board for sticking with Sam," said Nolan, whose streetwise performance frustrated Gus Poyet's side. "We had a very tough time early in the season with injuries. I don't think I've ever been through a season where so many major players have been out. At one stage we had all three of our central defenders out but our aim now is to finish in a top-10 spot.

"I'm sure if we'd had our squad for the full season we would have had a better season. We wouldn't have been in and around the relegation zone. We wouldn't have been talking about relegation."

West Ham fans, though, tend to be extremely keen to discuss Allardyce's rather rudimentary style of play. It was no coincidence that the win at Sunderland featured a headed goal from a corner – scored by Andy Carroll, whose return from injury has reinvigorated the team – and a deflected shot in the wake of a free-kick.

The previous week the home win against Hull resulted in Allardyce being booed by Hammers fans at Upton Park, prompting him to cup an ear with a hand.

"Of course he's had a difficult week," Nolan added. "With everything that goes on at the moment, all the online stuff, it can go really stupid. As the gaffer said, he wasn't mocking the fans, he just couldn't believe it was happening.

"Obviously some people are going to have problems with managers and players and you get that wherever you go. I've witnessed that at Newcastle and I've witnessed it at Bolton. But it was a few boos against Hull and a few grumblings.

"But he's got a good rapport with most of the fans and I think they know he knows what he's doing and that if he's given armoury and the backing he wants, he can build a team that will be challenging for Europe and doing it the right way.

"You only have to look back at what we had at Bolton when he was given the ammunition to go on and the situation he got us in. He got us into Europe twice and when he left, they struggled.

"Most supporters have been fantastic with Sam and all the lads. It was a minority against Hull. Hopefully they'll change their minds and come on board quickly and we'll all be celebrating a successful campaign."