Kevin Nolan will go down as one of the best players to never get an England cap and will also fall into the very small category of things Newcastle United fans can thank Joe Kinnear for.
The midfielder has scored goals all through his career and has always provided a threat from the centre of the pitch with his late runs into the box and a lot of opposition fans, particularly Sunderland, are sick of seeing his ‘chicken’ celebration. It is very surprising that he never got picked for an England squad as he was always been an influential member of every squad he has been in.
Nolan signed his first professional contract at Bolton Wanderers and made his debut in the 1999-2000 season but it was in his second season when he really started to show the fans his quality as he played 31 times in the league and also played the full 90 minutes of their playoff final win over Preston North End which got them to the Premier League.
He settled quickly into the Premier League and scored twice on the opening day against Leicester City and finished the season with eight goals, including one at Old Trafford in a 2-1 win. Proving this was not a fluke result in the next season Bolton beat Manchester United again at Old Trafford 1-0 with Nolan getting the goal. However, it was a much more difficult season as the club just stayed in the top flight and that goal was Nolan’s only one all season.
The 2003-04 season was much better for everyone as the club finished in eighth place and reached the final of the League Cup. Nolan finished the season with 12 goals and then in the following season helped the club qualify for the UEFA Cup for the first time in their history. He scored twice in that European run against Lokomotiv Plovdiv and Zenit St Petersburg.
After Jay-Jay Okocha left the club Nolan took over the captaincy as they once again qualified for Europe. It was in Europe that the club had one of their finest moments in recent history – a 2-2 draw away to German side Bayern Munich with Nolan setting up one of the goals with a long throw. Despite their good run in Europe they started to struggle in the league and they barely stayed in the league once again.
In January 2009 Nolan left Bolton after 323 league appearances and joined Joe Kinnear’s Newcastle United. It was a tough start to his career on Tyneside as the club were relegated and he was sent off for a horror tackle on Everton’s Victor Anichebe. But he vowed to stay at the club and get them back where they belong and he definitely played his part. He scored his first goal against Crystal Palace and followed this up shortly after with a hatrick against Ipswich Town. Throughout the season Nolan was made captain and finished it by being named the Championship Player of the Year. His 17 goals from midfield were crucial in winning the title and was now firmly a fan favourite.
At the start of the next season he was named the new club captain and scored a brace against Aston Villa in their first home game back in the Premier League. On the 31st October came one of the greatest moments ever for him and every Newcastle fan as he scored a hatrick against Sunderland in a 5-1 win. He ended the season with 12 league goals, including another in the return game with Sunderland.
Although he was very impressive for Newcastle he was sold to West Ham in the summer and was immediately made captain. He was tasked with helping get the club promoted and he delivered by scoring 12 times and helped them win the playoff final against Blackpool. Back in the Premier League once more his form did not drop and he scored his first goal of the season in an opening day win over Aston Villa. He hit double figures for the fourth season in a row and this included his 100th career goal and a hatrick against Reading.
Last season was a bit more difficult as his disciplinary record was not the greatest but he did still finish it as West Ham’s top scorer and a lot of their fans seem to forget that when talking about his contributions.
The final word can go to Joe Kinnear who signed him at Newcastle. “When I heard there was a chance of getting Kevin I was determined we would pull out all the stops to bring him here. He’s a player I think our fans will love. He’s a real inspirational player and a great character. He’s the sort of lad who never knows when he is beaten.”