No doubt the reaction will roll on, but so far the outlook has generally been negative.
Is this however, as many are predicting, a return to the dark days of three seasons ago? Or is this the real beginning of the new Newcastle?
Kevin Nolan has two main strengths – leadership and goal-scoring ability. These are two commodities that are very difficult to find never mind in a sole individual. Can they be replaced?
The leadership - The leadership Nolan provided was priceless. Looking at the current squad I see no candidates who we’ll look to when the going inevitably gets tough. Judging by quotes attributed to Cheik Tiote he has seemingly set the standard for what is expected of new players and helping to bed them into an already tight knit group and has also found himself offering a helping hand to the youngsters. Carroll took notice, Ranger didn’t, and the results are clear on that.
Goal-scoring ability - He has a real knack of being in the right place at the right time. His hat-trick against Sunderland is testament to this. Just looking at the goal scoring charts for last season shows his quality – more than Lampard and Rooney. His ability to get into these areas creates problems for defenders as even if he doesn’t score he has to be watched.
Looking at ‘positive’ reasons for his departure, Pardew has stated many times since he came in that the two main traits he would be looking for in his new players are pace and energy. With all due respect to Nolan, he puts more work in than he’s given credit for but he possesses neither speed nor real energy. Would he be a starter?
Looking at the depth in midfield we have Cheik Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa who immediately stand out, and we have the returning Dan Gosling to compete. We are also being linked with several other midfielders although I’ve left out Yohan Cabaye as I’ve never seen him play.
Was the writing already on the wall? – A point I feel many have missed, In January Pardew’s sole signing was the loan capture of Stephen Ireland, a player who would be brought in to directly compete with Ben Arfa/Nolan for our attacking midfield role. Had Ireland caught fire and turned in some top performances would there still be the same feeling amongst fans over Nolan’s departure?
The contract wrangle - I think it’s pretty clear that there is one lord of the manor at St James’, Mike Ashley. Mike has shown now with Carroll, Barton and Nolan that he will not be tangled with when it comes to new deals. Nolan has unfortunately attempted to do just that and there can only be one winner. I believe Ashley was right with this deal; would Nolan have been worth a large deal until he’s past 32?
Hughton’s fabled senior player committee - Alan Pardew has said that he wants to put his own stamp on the side and what better way is there than to get rid of the power four of Smith, Nolan, Barton and Harper. Add this into Pardew’s new, stricter approach to punctuality that he has been talking about it makes you wonder whether there was some friction to these new rule changes?
For me this situation could easily have been avoided with delayed contract talks but it’s happened and here we are. For me the balance of weighing up his merits against his drawbacks is too hard. I feel that the hole left by Nolan in the leadership department alone may be too big to fill but I’m not sure if we’ll miss him as much in terms of performance.
It is as we have come to accept with the Mike Ashley regime a gamble. He’s got some wrong and he’s got some right. Will this be a return to the dark days of years gone by? Or is this the phoenix finally rising from the flames?
I personally have no idea, but we will all soon find out… « Demba Ba set to sign for Newcastle? | Last chance! Enter our competition before it closes! »