Kevin Nolan - the Championship's best player?
I reckon that at the start of the season many people thought Newcastle would find the task of hauling themselves out of the quagmire of the Championship a very sticky proposition.
It doesn't look that way at the moment as the Magpies are seven points clear of second and 10 ahead of third place in the table.
There are a number of reasons for their healthy situation.
Among them is the dignified and reasoned management of Chris Hughton, the reinvention of Alan Smith as a holding midfielder, the Magpies' defensive resolve and organisation away from home and the fact they still have a squad that elicits envious glances from many rival clubs.
But central to Newcastle's success so far this season has been the form of attacking midfielder Kevin Nolan.
Nolan (right) has formed an excellent partnership with Smith
The 27-year-old had stagnated at Bolton but even after he joined Newcastle in January there were few signs of a return to the form that had once seen him strongly tipped for an England call-up.
Nolan scored once last season in 33 games, his solitary goal coming in Bolton's Carling Cup defeat against League Two Northampton in August.
But it has been a very different story in the Championship.
He has already found the net 10 times this season, including a memorable hat-trick in the 4-0 win at Ipswich in November.
I caught up with an understandably delighted Nolan after that match. With the match ball tucked firmly under his arm and a huge grin on his face as he signed a few autographs outside Portman Road, it was obvious that he was enjoying his football again.
He was insistent that the squad had been able to successfully isolate themselves from the chaos that had engulfed the club over the previous months as the relationship between Mike Ashley and Newcastle's supporters disintegrated.
I wasn't convinced then, but his words aren't sounding so hollow now.
Nolan is a likeable man with a sharp and cheeky wit, hardly unprecedented for a scouser but enjoyable company nonetheless. He is a father now with another on the way and has matured as a person over recent years.
He was the skipper of Bolton and has been a leader on and off the field at Newcastle this season. He has said the right things at the right time, regularly paying tribute to the team's brilliant away support but stressing in time honoured fashion that there is a long way to go before anyone can start celebrating.
On the pitch he has been superb and his versatility has been pivotal to the Magpies.
Nolan's ability to take up advanced positions has allowed Hughton to select a 4-5-1 formation away from home in the knowledge that the lone frontman will not become isolated. If required he can play as a second striker or, if two out and out forwards are selected in a 4-4-2 formation, he can comfortably slip into the centre of midfield alongside the more defensive Smith.
The Liverpudlian has rediscovered his ability to lose his marker and ghost into dangerous positions. His recent goal at Preston was a perfect example.
North End have a superb home record and the match was an even game turned decisively in Newcastle's favour by Nolan's goal. He ghosted into space beyond the far post and controlled a low cross with his first touch before swivelling and shooting beyond Andy Lonergan low into the bottom corner.
Nolan's finish against Preston was superb
It was a brilliant finish - a combination of technique and instinct; the qualities that show why Nolan should be in the Premier League.
The likes of Marlon Harewood, Andy Carroll, Nile Ranger and Shola Ameobi might really start to fire soon but they haven't been prolific so far and Nolan's goals have helped to ensure that Newcastle made the solid start to the season that they so badly needed after their relegation from the Premier League.
He is strong on the ball, good in the air and has the ability to play a defence-splitting pass.
There is a lot of the season left but I think he is arguably (note use of word arguably) the Championship player of the year so far.
As Hughton put it, with what I hope was a not inconsiderable amount of deadpan understatement: "Kevin is a very big player for us."
This is not to say there are not plenty of contenders.
Crystal Palace fans, for example, would argue that Darren Ambrose is a contender after scoring in six consecutive matches, while 18-year-old Victor Moses has shown in glimpses why he is coveted by many Premier League clubs. I even read a story recently suggesting Barcelona wanted to sign him.
Moses has been inconsistent but, as a purchase based on potential rather than as the finished product, he might command a higher price in the transfer market than Nolan.
All has not gone according to plan for Middlesbrough but winger Adam Johnson has been a stand-out performer for them. His crossing is excellent and he has chipped in with a not inconsiderable eight Championship goals.
Wide man Peter Whittingham has been outstanding for Cardiff, with 12 goals and is the leading scorer in the division, while Michael Chopra is showing once again his quality at Championship level with 11.
Find of the season so far might just be Bluebirds 17-year-old full-back Adam Matthew, who has been linked with Manchester United.
I have been impressed with West Brom duo Graeme Dorrans and Chris Brunt but Jerome Thomas has probably been their stand-out player so far. I would be pleased to hear whether Baggies fans agree?
Tom Cleverley, on loan from Manchester United, has been superb in midfielder as Watford have punched above their weight. I was very impressed when I saw him against QPR, while Charlie Adam has been in top form for Blackpool.
Forest fans will probably tell you that central midfielder Paul McKenna has been the fulcrum of their side, knitting play together with his extensive passing repertoire, while Matty Fryatt continues to catch the eye for Leicester.
I am sure I have failed to mention plenty of strong contenders and would be thrilled if you were to suggest some.
Of course, by the time the final round of the season arrives on 2 May it may well be that more players have made a strong case to be considered the Championship player of the season, but as we approach the half-way mark of the season I reckon that Nolan is the outstanding player.