A midsummer tale in Toon

By Lee Ryder on Jun 21, 11 02:05 PM

Have you ever heard the one about the two Scousers, three French lads and the bloke from Buckinghamshire?

Well as far as Newcastle United are concerned, that is story of the summer so far with three incoming new faces from France and the departure of a popular figure in Kevin Nolan.

This has been my first chance to have a say on Nolan but for those who see this as good business I can certainly see why for a player that reaches 29 this month and by his own high standards suffered a dip in form in the second half of the season.

Once, United began considering bids from the Hammers, it was soon obvious that Nolan was on his way from St James' Park.

Nolan may well have grabbed a fantastic 12 goals in the season for Newcastle but his goal-rate suffered once Andy Carroll faded out of the black and white picture.

That doesn't mean to say he lacked influence by scoring four goals without Carroll and even then, given our shocking lack of attacking options he still looked like our most lethal finisher, but does that say more about our strike force?

Nolan had a major influence at NUFC during his three season stay on Tyneside but the fact that United were prepared to let him go says to me that something clearly changed.

He may well have been hobbling on crutches, but how much did you read into the last day of the season lap of appreciation when Nolan and Joey Barton dropped off from the main group of players?

True enough, they both got the applause they deserved after a great season but it suggested that some of the togetherness from the promotion season had vanished.

But don't get me wrong, I wrote on these very pages back in August that Nolan had been United's most inspirational skipper since the days of Alan Shearer and you really can't give a better write up than that.

Those were the words after promotion and by helping us secure safety with games to spare, happily he proved me right that he was the man to help us survive last season.

The question marks over his departure still remain.

We're forever hearing how players love the club and want to stay but when it comes to the crunch they go almost as quickly as they arrive.

Nolan had two years left on his contract and despite a lack of progress in talks, he still could have enjoyed his peak years so to speak at St James' Park if he'd wanted to.

That he was prepared to go to play in the Championship at Barnsley and Cardiff in the colours of West Ham, will still leave a lot of Toon fans miffed.

Yet in my opinion, he leaves Tyneside with his head held high and should always be given a warm welcome in these parts.

Thank you Kev for bringing the dressing room back together after relegation, for helping a club on its knees in summer 2009 sort out the men from the boys, the goals that delivered us promotion and not to mention your magnificent pair of performances in the derbies against Sunderland which delivered four goals.

In my book and many others, you have a place in Geordie folklore and I've known very few modern Premier League players to buy into the area, do so much for charity and even involve a few members of the local Press to join the team for dinner and a few drinks.

But for Newcastle United, the show must go on...

This is currently a ship without a captain.

A quick look around those left in the dressing room does not throw out any obvious candidates for the job.

Steven Taylor? Possibly but has he enough experience and maturity to deal with the role?

Fabricio Coloccini? He's done the job before but does he have enough knowledge of English and the lifestyle that surrounds it?

Steve Harper? Can't argue with his experience at the club or knowledge of the Premier League, will Alan Pardew a) want a goalie as skip or b) have Harper as his number 1.

Chieck Tiote? Certainly strong in the challenge and has the hunger to drive on, but perhaps it would be unfair to hand the armband to him at such an early stage.

Joey Barton? Well, his future has to be far from certain and recent Twitter outbursts place a huge question mark over his head but certainly has the skills, influence and knowledge to carry out the role.

Where do you go after Danny Simpson? Shola Ameobi? Jonas Gutierrez? Nobody else is a natural leader unless perhaps Yohan Cabaye has enough time in the pre-season period to make friends and make an impact.

On the subject of Cabaye's arrival, the former Lille midfielder arrives with a winning mentality having lifted the title in France.

A box to box player who win midfield battles could certainly thrive in the world of the Premier League.

At the moment I don't see too many fans getting too excited.

The same can be said of Sylvain Marveaux - but if the lad can start whipping in crosses and deliver decent centres he did in France then it would not take him long to win over Newcastle supporters - given this has been something the Magpies have often lacked in recent times, especially from open play.

And then you have Demba Ba.

Usually the best way to judge a player a player is to do something we used to do many years ago on a regular basis - pick up a book.

The Sky Sports Yearbook (Old money: The Rothmans) will tell you that seven goals in 12 games had West Ham fans a little bit excited at the progress of the Senegal international, and he could well prove to be a real hit on Tyneside if he gets a good pre-season under his belt.

Flick through the books again and a respectable strike-rate at 1899 Hoffenheim and in France shows he knows where the net is.

And finally, going back to Barton, you have to wonder just whether he has a future at St James' Park.

No bids thus far, but certainly interest.

It would appear Barton wants to stay, the manager wants him to stay and the fans want him to stay.

But if a bid is table - and only when a bid is tabled - it is unlikely to see Barton staying at a club that don't want to offer him a new deal.

With money on offer, it would hardly be turned down and if the inlfux of new signings continues as I expect to, it will be another case of "You have been watching" for one of the Magpies' most popular players last season.

Life isn't dull on Tyneside is it? But when has it ever been?

Trophy-less, yes.

Boring, of course not!

Follow me on Twitter @lee_ryder


Mike said:

Lee, I'd like to hear your opinion on whether the current squad overhaul is the right approach to take? Having not really seen much of any of the players we've signed, I can only reserve judgement on their quality, but when you rip the heart out of a team that was greater than the sum of its parts, you do have to wonder whether this is yet another Ashley regime blunder. Why not take a phased approach? Keep both Barton and Nolan for one more season, add some flair around them, then sell Nolan with 1 year left on his contract and allow Barton to leave for nothing (if they didn't want to keep him)? I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of freshening the squad up with young, hungry talent, but you only need to look at Man U (Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Scholes, Giggs, Owen) to see the benefit of retaining a balance between youth and experience.

Anthony said:

Actually, I was there, and the reason they were behind the rest is that Nolans bairn kept on running off, and Barton had to keep going after him, with Nolan holding back to wait for Joey to bring him back

toonagain said:

Good blog Lee. Its hard to be positive with the owner and directors at his stage of the season, as they have made so many crucial major mistakes at simialr important times.

I do believe letting Barton and Nolan go is a major mistake, yes the show will roll on but will it be painful or a pleasure to watch.

The spirit they brought combined with the spirit of the supporters, which we maybe not have had since shearer; we had something in common - a love and passion for the the club. This I believe led to CH's exit, probably AC's, Nolans and Bartons.

The lads they've brought in look decent additions, not brilliant but i like the ethos of not splashing the cash just because they maybe some. from history its never brought us anything of much worth well at least 50/50 at best.

You can't have a team with out heart and spirit, or should that be Barton and Nolan..?

If things continue, as they've started i wouldn't be supriesed if Colo and others will follow N&B...

Mal said:

Nolan deserves a lot of credit for what he did for us and it was his influence more than anyone else that turned us around - he will always get a warm welcome when he comes back but the reality is that it would have been ridiulous to have given him a 5 year contract. He has got a fantastic contract at West Ham and good luck to him - but in 12 months time I suspect it won't look a very good decision for West Ham. It is similar to the situation we have got ourselves in with Smith.
As for Barton my understanding is that he turned down a 2 year extension (in other words a 3 year contract) that would have taken him up to the age of nearly 32. Again he wants a 5 year contract - unrealistic. He should sign up to repay us for past misdemeanours. He has cost £16million in fees and wages and we have had 1 good season out of him. I don't think he should be captain - when he was captain last season his performance suffered. If he doesn't sign he should be sold as inevitably he will be a disruptive influence in the dressing room. It is perhaps telling that no premiership club has come in for him (or Nolan before he left).
With Jose likely to leave I am worried about the talk of selling Jonas and Collo - there is a limit to how many new players you can integrate into the team in one go. And in all of this talk I can't help smiling as Shola somehow remains under the radar - as you have said previously Lee it's never dull at newcastle.

Chris Gray said:

Nolan’s departure is fine by me. He has done a good job and leaves with his reputation high, but he has always seemed to me heavy-legged. Not an out and out striker obviously and a bit ineffective when playing deeper. I remember him at Bolton as a box-to-box, quick midfielder. Why did they sell him? My theory is that they realised that his legs had gone. We got him and he looked nothing like the same player. You can’t argue with his leadership and scoring record – but if we get the right strikers in, and with the central midfield options we have, I think his first-team chances would be limited. In that case, why offer him a long, expensive contract? Still, he will forever bask in the glory of the Sunderland game last season. That’ll do for me.

Mick said:

it's never dull at Tyneside! The mentality of adding flair to a side so deprieved of it is good but IMHO the way they execute it is a bit too excessive. looking at our paper thin squad, if we did not manage to retain quality players like barton, gutierrez and jose, it spells trouble. It is practically impossible for all new signings to fit in directly into EPL environment and start performing. they should be integrated gradually into the first team and prove their worth throughout games. ripping aparts the whole core of last season team is definitely risky. we might enjoy a good run of winning a 7 goal thriller etc but when mid season arrive with injuries started to come in, then we'll suffer. blackpool had a flying start last season look at where they're now. Do sign more exciting players (Berbatov pleaseeeee) but at the same time keep the core of team intact.

Scott Mcneil said:

I think weve done well this transfer market so far, however we still need to improve in a few more areas.

We have three excellent goalkeepers, our three senior centrebacks are solid, colo and mike are much improved and stevie is such a threat from corners, however we need one more centre back as fouth cover neil taylor?? he can play as lb aswell.

we need to keep Jose to mentor ferguson but we may need another RB to cover simpson.

Where we need to strength?

another centre midfielder: Mblasie, Emana, Sissoko???

another winger: Nzogbia, Barneta, Suljemani???

another stiker: Erdinc, Strurridge


players that need to go!!!: Lovenkrands, Ranger and Ameobi

Keep: Best!! he proved himself last season

john brame said:

Three week ago in a pub in WA Iheard that Nolan was on his way for his 'last big earner'.


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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