NOLAN’S STILL A USE­FUL OP­TION

The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY - AVAIL­ABLE: Kevin Nolan

KEVIN Nolan’s shock de­par­ture from West Ham could be great news for any Cham­pi­onship club will­ing to pay his wages.

Cap­tain against Bournemouth last week­end, the 33-year-old was with­drawn at half-time and sub­se­quently in­formed that he was no longer good enough for Slaven Bilic’s first XI.

Un­will­ing to sit on his back­side, the for­mer Bolton midfielder agreed to tear up a con­tract worth £50,000-a-week and is now a free agent.

Clearly, the Scouser still has the de­sire to play. The ques­tion now – es­pe­cially af­ter be­ing run ragged by Bournemouth – is does he still have the legs?

At the high­est level, prob­a­bly not. The Premier League is in­creas­ingly dom­i­nated by power and pace, but Nolan in­creas­ingly re­sem­bles a ter­ri­fied Shaggy in Scooby Doo – all ef­fort, no mo­tion.

Nor does Nolan fit the kind of tac­ti­cal flu­id­ity beloved by for­eign coaches. He suits one po­si­tion and one sys­tem.

Nev­er­the­less, his great­est qual­ity – that in­tu­itive abil­ity to see space, time a run and put the ball in the net – re­mains undi­min­ished.

In the Cham­pi­onship, where the pace is slacker and de­fend­ers that frac­tion slower, Nolan could still fill his boots.

Five years ago, he scored 17 times as New­cas­tle roared back to the Premier League. A totemic fig­ure off the field, his down-to-earth pro­fes­sion­al­ism also helped unite a dress­ing room of cliques and ego­tists.

Such a gal­vanis­ing ef­fect at 33 is un­likely. But a dou­ble-fig­ure goal tally is not. It a team plays to his strengths, he could be the dif­fer­ence be­tween mid-ta­ble medi­ocrity and a top six fin­ish.

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