Monday, February 28, 2011

Just how effective is Kevin Anthony Nolan?

Our skipper joined Newcastle United on January 29th 2009 for a fee of 4m from Bolton Wanderers and in my mind has gone on to become a hugely influential member of our team and the obvious choice for club captain.

However there are a percentage of the Newcastle United faithful who still are undecided with regards to just how effective Kevin Nolan really is. In this post I will aim to take a closer look at everything he offers to the team and any potential ways in which he is holding us back.

A quick glance at Nolan's stats gives you an early indication to what he exactly brings to the team. Nolan's goal record is very impressive from a centre midfield position. To score 29 goals in 86 games for the club is no mean feat. Kevin currently is the 5th top goal scorer in the premier league - the best league in the world. He is only bettered by Berbatov, Tevez, Darren Bent, and Kevin's ex-lodger Andy Carroll - again very impressive for a player who is still struggling to shake a reputation he picked up while playing for the unfashionable Bolton Wanderers. Goal scoring is the hardest thing to do on a football pitch and goals are like Gold dust. Luckily for United, Nolan has that instinct to provide more than his fair share.

Another huge part of Nolan's game is his leadership qualities. When Kevin wears that armband for United he is a proud man, he wears his heart on his sleeve and that has earned him the respect of the St James park crowd. For what he lacks in quality he makes up for it through hard work, grit and determination. This cannot be taught, you are born with that winning mentality, hunger, and drive. Arsenal could certainly have done with some of this grit during the Carling cup final, or even at St James park when a Nolan lead Newcastle came back from the dead at 4-0 to snatch a 4-4 draw. Kevin is a proper man, the kind you would want fighting next to you in the trenches.

When everything was all doom and gloom at the end of the 2009/10 season and the tears were still rolling down the cheeks of Geordies all over the world - Kevin was a key member of the players liaison group along with Alan Smith and Steve Harper who literally grabbed that squad by the scruff of the neck and dragged them out of the doldrums and lead us back to the premiership with a trophy to celebrate. Lets us not forget.

Obviously there are things that Kevin lacks and I fully understand and actually agree with most of the complaints I hear. Mobility is a huge part of today's game, you will often hear the term 'pace and power' used while referring to the modern day player. Pace is certainly not something Kevin has in his locker.
His lack of legs in the middle of the park has left us stretched against the better teams in the league, and lots of expectation has been put onto Chiek Tiote to cover the majority of the defensive midfield duties. In fairness however this happens at many different clubs. We have all seen Frank Lampard score tons of goals over the years at Chelsea, but he always had a quality player covering him defensively - whether it was Claude Makalele or more recently Michael Essien. It is not uncommon for teams to deploy a designated defensive midfield, which then allows the more attack minded midfielders to bomb forward and grab goals. Nolan certainly has benefited from the level of performance turned in week in, week out by Tiote and could be described as a classic attacking midfielder.

I really am a fan of Kevin Nolan and feel that right now he is what we need at Newcastle United - he still has a huge role to play this season and potentially next. I do however long term see his place being under threat. Joey Barton has been a top performer this season playing mostly as a right side midfielder, however Joey is still a top quality centre midfielder. In the coming years I can see Barton and Tiote being the first choice paring to run the Newcastle midfield. With the likes of Dan Gosling and Stephen Ireland now in the squad and the emergence of Haris Vukic this will add an extra dimension to our midfield options - even before we talk about potential summer signings.

I do feel that Nolan will be replaced in the next 18 months, but think that this cannot happen until someone is ready to step up and fill his big boots. Finding a player that can offer a great goal return and also a new team leader is no easy task and to lose Nolan anytime soon would leave a massive void at the club. In my years of supporting Newcastle I do not think I have seen a more complete midfielder since Robert Lee.

Pardew's thoughts

“He is better than I thought he was.”
“Technically he is more accomplished than I gave him credit for. Maybe that’s because of Bolton’s style when he was there.
Fans opinion
"I guess every team needs a gutsy,determined player like him in its team and I suppose with the help of the team around him he has become a cult figure."

"Nolan may look like a candidate to play Masters football at the arena but he gives the club so much in terms of leadership on and off the pitch."

"Nolan finds space in the area at crucial times, and did it again on Saturday." 

Nolan: Leader of men.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Honours even at St James Park

So both teams had to settle for 1 point yesterday as Newcastle were held by a decent Bolton side. 
To use the old cliche, this certainly was a game of two halves. From the very start I thought we looked solid in possession and very effective as an attacking unit, which resulted in our skipper Kevin Nolan doing what he does best - being in the right place at the right time to apply a clever headed finish. If the score was 3-1 at half time then I don't think Bolton could complain too much. However obviously that did not happen and Newcastle were made to regret those early missed chances when Daniel Sturridge fired in a quality equaliser right before the half time whistle.  After failing to clear the lines and Tiote being caught in possession Elmander nicked the ball away before squaring it to Sturridge who applied a good finish past Harper. I would like to add that Sturridge is really starting to show his quality since heading to Bolton on loan and I really would like to see Pardew bring Sturridge to St James Park this summer as I feel this lad can have a bright future.

For me a pivotal moment in the game went against Newcastle. Mid way through the first half Leon Best latched onto a through ball from Nolan and raced towards the goal before he was pushed to the ground by Paul Robinson which certainly would of resulted in a penalty and a red card for the Bolton full back. However, the offside flag has been raised by the assistant ref - wrongly in my opinion. That was a game changer - if Newcastle went 2-0 up and Bolton went down to 10 men then the 3 point would certainly have stayed in the North East.

The game was then completely turned on its head when Ryan Taylor saw red early in the second half. I have no complaints about the decision and I don't think anyone can. Unfortunately a poor first touch meant Taylor had to over stretch to make the tackle. Both feet were off the ground and Johan Elmander could of been hurt - it could only be a red card. Taylor is a nice lad, he'll learn from this.

From that point on the dynamics of the game changed. Bolton benefited from their numerical advantage, with the likes of Petrov finding more room to operate but never really causing too many problems for our steady defenders. Newcastle held their own though and did not revert to "Parking the bus" and holding on to the 1 point, instead we pushed and looked equally likely to grab all 3 points. Pardew must be commended for this and it made for an exciting second half.

So Newcastle end the day where we began it - 9th in the Premiership. Things really are tight as we move towards the business end of the season and a run of wins could see us achieve something unexpected this year.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Newcastle V Bolton preview

Newcastle head into this weekends home game against Bolton surely with an eye still on European qualification. Bolton currently sit 8th in the Premiership one point above Newcastle meaning a win would see the Geordies leapfrog the Trotters.  
This show remarkable progress for Newcastle United who's sole aim was to avoid an immediate return to the the Championship. Great early season form has seen our ambitions change and now we realistically have a shot at finishing 7th this season.
I see this being a close game between two solid teams, however the home advantage should see Newcastle pick up all 3 points. Jose Enrique and Jonas attacking down the left flank should prove too strong for Bolton and with Leon Best in the goal scoring form of his life I am going to predict a 2-1 win for Newcastle with goals from Leon Best and Kevin Nolan.
Team News
Defenders Steven Taylor and Ryan Taylor both return to the squad after lengthy lay-offs, but Stephen Ireland and Dan Gosling, Alan Smith and Hatem Ben Arfa remain on the sidelines.
On loan striker Daniel Sturridge returns to the Bolton squad after missing the last two games because he was cup tied.
Possible starting 11's:

Newcastle: Harper, Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Enrique, Barton, Tiote, Nolan, Gutierrez, Best, Lovenkrands.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Alonso, Wheater, Cahill, Robinson, Petrov, Muamba, Holden, Lee, K Davies, Sturridge.

Tiote Signs New Deal

NUFC Engine room

Great news this morning coming out of St James Park that out midfield powerhouse Cheik Tiote has signed a new 6 and a half year contract which will keep him at Newcastle until the 2015/16 season.

Cheik, who joined the club from the Dutch side Twente during the summer of 2010 for a fee of 3.5m, has fast become a fan favorite at SJP and there cannot be a fan who is not over the moon about today's news.

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come at Newcastle. I think that retaining the big players in our squad is paramount to our future success and Tiote certainly is a big player for NUFC. I would love to see Barton and Enrique follow Cheik and pledge their future to Newcastle which would certainly put down a marker and prove the ambition of the club as well as give us a steady footing on which to build on in the summer.

Another signing today that went unnoticed compared to the Tiote deal was John Carver signing a 5 year deal with the club to continue his role as assistant manager. JC is a Geordie through and through and has added so much to the staff at NUFC since returning. I loved the Sir Bobby Robson years at St James and I am sure JC was thrilled to have worked so close with a legend of English football. I wish JC all the best and hope that he can help bring the good days back to NUFC.

Looking forward
to many more

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Welcome to my Blog.

My name is Mark Lightley and I am a passionate fan of Newcastle United Football Club

I was born into a Black and White family in the NUFC stronghold of Bedlington, Northumberland.

I was raised right by my parents and picked up the family passion for Newcastle United.

I was brought up on the terraces of St James Park and developed a love for the Toon at an early age.

My love for the club grows stronger year on year and I have become consumed by everything Newcastle United.