The Monday Profile: Kevin Nolan
Throughout a decade of parks football, the singular most irritating action I saw repeated time and again was the re-emergence of a dominant opponent at one’s own club’s lower level, having seemingly bidden goodbye to him the season before when his club won the league.
Being “a winner” is a state often eulogised in our game, but is it fair to eschew Billy Ocean tendencies and give up the “Going” to drop back to more comfortable pastures? The term “flat track bully” has been applied to a range of sportsmen from Virender Sehwag to Audley Harrison and Kevin Nolan’s surprise arrival at the Boleyn Ground makes one suspicious again.
Of course another factor peels out like the Bow Bells West Ham fans pretend to have been born within earshot of. A five year contract at the age of 28 goes against all Football League etiquette at a time when agreements really ought to be shorter for the overall good of the game. West Ham arrive on our doorsteps like a crass squadron of nouveaux riches splashing their trinkets – Nolan is, according to David Gold, “not here to play Championship football” and leaving aside the need for someone to perhaps spell out the truth to the Toxteth born midfielder, one expected little else in the way of gestures from those understated owners.
Nolan left the Championship a year ago with his reputation burnished nicely. Utterly comfortable from Day One, he ended up collecting a Football League player of the year gong and 18 goals – forcing his way forward from midfield in muscular fashion, he proved to be the ideal foil for future £35 million man Andy Carroll – to the extent that they decided to not only make house together, along with other hi jinx – all memorably chronicled in a twitteric spoof.
But that second tier sojourn isn’t the end of it, for Nolan has excelled once again in starrier climes – adding a more than tidy 12 goals and acting as a lynchpin for Newcastle as they eased into a mid table slot, knocking off some tremendous victories en route. All this confirms the impression he made as a Bolton Wanderers player, locking horns with Bayern Munich and Zenit St. Petersburg and racking up four short of 300 games in white.
A good player then – so why the drop down? Well, Jimmy Bullard might provide a test case – opting as he did togo to a more lowly club, albeit one Championship-bound rather than Championship-proper. Kevin’s ankle hasn’t been at his best recently and one can imagine the reaction of the man our friends over at Black & White & Read All Over call Jabba when he came sailing into the boardroom to ask for a 5 year contract. But the club that famously stumped up £60,000 a week for Lucas Neill were less aghast and, thankfully for Nolan, Samuele Allardici got a new toy to display alongside another former Trotter, Abdoulaye Faye.
The past season’s campaign already seems quaint and Swans, Rangers and Canaries will feel relieved that they have exited before the arrival of these brash newcomers. Sure, West Ham and Birmingham will lose personnel but the example of 2009-10, when Newcastle gambled on a swift return, will provide their blueprint. Having achieved such success so recently, David Gold’s “stake in the sand” will likely withstand shifting tides.