The Captain

By Lee Ryder on Aug 27, 10 08:07 PM

To compare anybody as the best "anything" since Alan Shearer is a statement that must be issued with extreme care.

But when it comes to talking about captains since the legendary Big Al hung up his captain's armband, then you have to say Kevin Nolan is certainly giving it his all to fill a major void that has been left wide open for almost four years.

Scott Parker, who did have his moments, at St James' Park lasted a season and then left Newcastle after failing to get his head round the place to the point that an end of season official club interview with the then captain was never published because it was so negative.

Big Sam then amazingly handed the armband to Geremi in one of his first moves as boss.

Geremi was then soon made the scapegoat by Allardyce after a string of poor results and then leaving the ex-Bolton boss with a task to replace him.

Allardyce opted for Alan Smith but the Yorkshire battler had hardly got used to wearing it before Kevin Keegan replaced him with Michael Owen.

In my eyes, Owen was always going to be a bad idea due to his single minded attitude within the game.

Even as captain, when fit and when bothered, he often shirked his responsibility as skipper to come out and face the music after games and explain the team's performance, good or bad, to the media.

His mundane expressions on the pitch and moody outlook on his time at Newcastle also said to me he gave the impression he didn't really care - even if it may have been a build-up of inner frustration about the way life was panning out after arriving from Real Madrid.

You couldn't blame him on some things, but as far as lifting the team - and the fans, he did little for me - I don't know about you?

Owen's departure, then led to the appointment of Nicky Butt as club captain last term.

Butt had a wealth of experience and it's understood that the ex-England man was a revelation behind the scenes.

However, when life started to go belly up at Newcastle after playing for such a superb organisation as Manchester United his expression was always "What the hell have I done moving here?"

After being farmed out at Birmingham and being made the scapegoat by some for the FA Cup semi-final defeat in Cardiff against Man U (before my time as a reporter at Newcastle), Butt was sceptical of the media on Tyneside.

Nevertheless he survived relegation and played a part in winning promotion to the Premier League.

When looking back on the Championship title win, Newcastle were at their most inspiring with Nolan inspiring them with the armband.

Behind the scenes the influential Scouser lifted the camp and it's clear if somebody is stepping out of line, he will quickly remind them of the standards that are required at Newcastle these days.

So far this season Nolan has picked up where he left off last season on the field and in the goal stakes.

He's playing with a smile on his face and getting everybody to do the same so far.

Nolan enjoyed banter with the Gallowgate End last week against Aston Villa when mocking Brad Friedel while the American was trying to prepare his wall for a free-kick and the Scouser was in the middle of it attempting to be a distraction.

At Accy Stanley in midweek when a home fan complained he was blocking his view while warming up and getting on her nerves, Nolan quipped: "I'll warm up somewhere else, you're getting on my nerves love", all of it good spirit and both parties found it funny.

These are early days for the new Newcastle and the new captain, but so far, so good even just a few games into a new (ish) regime.

He may have got off to a slow start to his Toon career and endured relegation but since grabbing 18 goals in the Championship and producing some great moments along the way, it looks like there may be more to come.

Speaking to Nolan gives you the feeling that he actually genuinely cares for the Magpies and the fans.

In the modern game it can be difficult to get a footballer to talk for longer than two minutes but after the game with Aston Villa, Nolan actually joked with an NUFC Press officer that he still had "plenty to say" when he was told his allotted time was up!

He then went on to joke (when referring to myself and a colleague): "These two might look like they've heard enough but I'll keep going until I'm finished."

Many felt that they'd seen the best of Nolan at Bolton in his days at the Reebok.

But with the 28-year-old in fine form so far this season (yes early days) Newcastle could yet get the best from the Scouse lad in his peak.

It remains to be seen whether the 4-4-1-1 formation with Nolan and Carroll up top can sparkle just as well in the Premier League, but who really knows? Especially at home.

And if he can achieve his dream of leading a team from the Championship and into Europe, like at Bolton, then nobody will be complaining.


Andy Kane said:

So we get Robbie Keane... And Ben Arfa... Where does Nolan play? Where does Barton fit in? If Keane comes, he's not going to sit on the bench waiting until Nolan or Carroll get injured.

I think Nolan's an inspiration to the rest of the team; I think he gives them confidence, but even while we were winning last week, he was getting stick from the crowd about his lack of pace. One incident in particular sticks in my mind. In the first half, Jonas goes haring down the wing and loses the ball near the corner flag, so he goes to the defender and forces him further back, further into the corner. His persistence and tackle force the guy to try to kick the ball away but it comes off him and it bounces away towards the penalty area. Now, no-one has come to help. Nolan is our nearest player, but he doesn't move for the ball when it breaks and a Villa player runs further to get it.

This is a eally difficult one. Great goal poacher; great inspiration - great captain (and I'd take him over Shearer because he sees more of the game from the position he usually plays). Will he settle for defensive midfielder? Thought Smith (for once) was superb last week.

Christopher said:

Would love to see you remind us of the stats for how often Owen actually touched the ball in his last season for us, never mind his goals tally. I hope we never see his like again.

captnkidd said:

Hey I thought you were having a go at me there Lee. I nearly choked on my pasty when I saw the hedline.

hairball said:

Another 18 goals would be nice

relton said:

Excellent article - Nobby was instrumental in our promotion. I was a little aggrevated to hear some of the comments in the crowd at teh matches I was lucky enough to attend last season. Sure his pace is questionable - but look at his finishing.
He can silence critics with goals.
I think he and smudge proved to be Hughtons henchmen - and i wouldnt want to mess with either of them.


Lee Ryder

Lee Ryder - Proudly born and bred on Tyneside, the Chronicle's chief sports writer has followed the fortunes of the club over the last three decades as a Toon fan and football writer.

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