I was a little surprised to see Kevin Nolan agree a four and a half year deal at Newcastle after arriving in a £4million deal from Bolton Wanderers.
The 26-year-old midfielder was Bolton’s captain and regarded by some as ‘Mr Bolton’ after breaking through their youth system and rising through the ranks to become captain. He has scored some great goals in his Bolton career and had a record of 50 goals in 345 games, round about the one in seven mark, but is yet to find the net this season and Bolton obviously saw him as surplus to requirements.
The midfield is probably the area Bolton need to strengthen the most and letting Nolan go comes as somewhat of a surprise to me, especially if boss Gary Megson fails to bring in a replacement. The Bolton midfield is packed with players who work hard such as Fabrice Muamba, Gavin McCann and Matt Taylor. Youngster Chris Basham seems to have comfortably made the step up from the youth team and Kevin Davies and Ricardo Gardner also play midfield roles a lot of the time but aside from Gardner there is very little invention in the middle of the park. Taylor is capable of creating just about anything from a set-piece but in open play is less likely to turn a game around. Bolton really do need a creative force and Nolan did not fit into that picture anymore.
Nolan’s game has changed over perhaps the last two years and he has become another battling type of player. He has seemed out-of-sorts this season and has not been able to influence games the way he has in the past. I’m sorry too see Nolan go after what he has done previously but this season he has been way below par and I’m surprised Newcastle coughed up £4million for him. On top of that he picks up a lot of bookings and seems to get suspended at least twice a season, which upsets the balance of the team.
Now the Nolan as captain era is over Megson will need to appoint a new captain and more importantly find a player who offers more to the team than Nolan could. Matt Taylor seems the most likely choice of captain after deputising impressively in Nolan’s absence through suspension but this is a less pressing issue than a midfield replacement. Bolton have seen deals fall through for Jimmy Bullard and Miguel Veloso, both players who would drastically improve the Wanderers side. They need a creative force, a player who can unlock defences and someone with a bit of spark. The Reebok Stadium has been home to some esteemed names in the past such as Youri Djorkaeff, Jay Jay Okocha, Ivan Campo and El Hadj Diouf, all players with the ability to change the course of a game or split a team open with one move.
The failure to capture Bullard or Veloso could prove costly for Megson. Even though I don’t feel the loss of Nolan will prove a massive blow to Bolton it could cause a lot of damage if they don’t add to the squad. Bolton are already low on numbers as it is and in this relegation battle they find themselves in they can not afford to let one of their more experienced players go without a replacement in mind. It has surprised me that Nolan has gone, but it would surprise me even more if Bolton did not replace him before the window closes.