Kevin Nolan's now the bedrock of revitalised United team
Joey Barton may be back in training but he has plenty to do to get back into the Newcastle team. Chief sports writer Luke Edwards spoke to Kevin Nolan about his impending return
KEVIN Nolan has epitomised Newcastle United this season. Devastated by the pain of relegation and stung by the personal criticism which followed, the midfielder has been at the vanguard of the dressing room renaissance.
There have been better players in the Magpies side this season, and certainly more eye-catching ones, but none have done more than Nolan to help banish the bitter memories of last term.
Nolan’s 13 goals have grabbed the headlines in terms of his contribution on the pitch and they were priceless at the start of the campaign, when Newcastle needed someone to inspire an early-season recovery.
Those goals will have ensured he received plenty of floating voters when he was named Championship Player of the Year earlier this week, but that accolade was warranted for a variety of reasons. Nolan has arguably done even more behind the scenes, away from the media glare, to help rebuild shattered confidence and fractious team spirit. It is his character and personality which have shone in the background, a light around which others could rally in the darkness.
Even when he was still trying to come to terms with United’s inability to stay up last summer, he never had any regrets about signing.
He even felt guilty about it, given the disasters that had occurred in his time on Tyneside, but he was adamant he would stay to put things right.
And that is what he, and Newcastle, have done, forging a collective will which has allowed their individual quality to emerge in a division which was determined to embrace them, strangle them and ultimately keep them.