…Or how to dismantle the greatest team spirit a club has ever known by following our easy step-by-step process…
Club captain. Leader. Inspiration. Goalscorer.
Fat. Lazy. Slow. Passenger.
Kevin Nolan has been called a lot of things by a lot of fans in his time at Newcastle, but no-one can deny the effect he has had on the club since joining two and a half years ago.
After largely disappointing performances in our relegation season, he, alongside Steve Harper, Alan Smith and Nicky Butt were largely credited with uniting what remained of that team to form the team spirit that saw the club promoted at the first opportunity (as division winners), and then finish comfortably in our first season back in the big-money league.
And, as it stands, Steve Harper will be the only one left come next season’s kick-off, and possibly not as number one.
The exits of Butt (age) and Smith (huge wages for not many games) could easily be accepted. The exit of Nolan is harder to swallow. He has two years left on his contract, and there would be an argument to – if the club didn’t want to renew it – at least keep him another season before cashing in. As seen by Nicky Butt and Alan Smith, players can have great influence without playing every week.
And it would be no means certain, don’t forget, that Nolan would play every game next season. He does lead from the front, but in one of the fastest leagues in the world he does seem to get passed by. He does score goals (30 in two and a half seasons), but usually they came against ‘lesser’ teams and in batches. In fact, of the 12 league goals he scored last season, 6 came in the hammerings of the mackems, West Ham and Villa.
I am a fan of incentivised contracts – anyone who seen players like Viduka, Geremi and EMO play for us would be, but you can’t help but get the impression the club could have tried a lot harder to reward him for his influence in helping get the club where it is today on what has been, let’s face it, a minimal outlay. Hell, we could have at least kept him another season to supplement our threadbare squad before cashing in on him.
Since 2006, Newcastle have profited by more in the transfer market than any other team in the Premier League. Cost-control is an admirable policy, and can certainly be understood within the context of the club, but trying to run the club on the bare minimum can only lead in one direction. We survived last season despite this because of the leadership offered by the senior figures in the dressing room.
The question is, how will we survive next season without them?
Barton looks to be going, as there is only one year left on his contract. Enrique also. And why would players like Tiote and Coloccini want to stay when there is a fire sale going on around them.
As a Newcastle fan, today is the reality check after the excitement of signing a French international (who, admittedly, most of us have never seen play), and being linked with a wide range of much-needed strikers. This is the reminder that most of our significant business under Ashley sees players leaving, not coming in.
So, to Kevin Nolan, on behalf of our fans:
Thank you for staying with us and helping to put the club right after relegation. You may not have been the greatest player we ever had, or the fastest, or whatever. But you had heart. And the fans appreciated that.
And to Newcastle fans:
A long summer is ahead. Who will be next?