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.
"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: Leader of men.|