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Kevin Nolan - the Championship's best player?

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Paul Fletcher | 12:40 UK time, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

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.

Alan Smith (left) and Kevin Nolan have been effective in the centre of midfield 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.

Kevin Nolan scores against Preston 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.

You can follow me throughout the season at


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  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    From a Baggie angle, I would suggest James Morrison - who hasn't played yet this season - will be up there when he returns from injury in the new year.
    Likewise Robert Koren, who's had an injury hampered season, and Ishmael Miller, who should return to start his season in late January. Jonas Olsson also worth a shout along with Dorrans and Thomas. Brunt alas far too inconsistent.

  • Comment number 3.

    The best player in this league has not been mentioned in the article,Nolan is key to us but our best player is Jose Enrique,even though he is a left back he has a lot of skill and is pivotal to the way attack with his surging runs from full back.

  • Comment number 4.

    #1 - congrats on your achievement

    To paul - 13 points clear of third?

  • Comment number 5.

    I think you should ask Victor Anichebe of Everton about what he thinks of this article. A horror tackle by Nolan and Anichebe hasnt played since.

  • Comment number 6.

    This should be no surprise, he's made English squads, in his prime, and playing for the Championship club with the best squad, if i were him i'd be disappointed not to be.

  • Comment number 7.

    Jose Enrique may be good in attack... but he is a horrible defender.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Paul,

    Nice to see you managed to get mention of PNE in your article. ;-)

    But as you say Nolan is the difference between a nil - nil draw and winning 3 vital points. That is why those players ply their trade in the Prem and not in the Championship.

    I agree with the players you have highlighted as being pivotal to this division.

    At Preston i would have to say that Andy Lonergan has earnt us about 10 more points than we should have with some stunning saves and he has managed to cut out the lapses in concentration that have cost him over the last few years. He is maturing into a very fine player. Just hope the Burnley and Stoke rumours aren't true.

    Billy Sharp is also firing again now he is at a club that love him. I cried out for PNE to sign him for months and look what he has done at Donny.

  • Comment number 9.

    oh and let's not forget about Adam Johnson

  • Comment number 10.

    St8Himself - quite correct. I have had something of a horror story with the maths there. I've corrected it to read 10 points.

    john lush - Perhaps, but let us not forget that he had a very mediocre couple of seasons prior to this one so I don't think it could be assumed that he was suddenly going to hit form.

    Sam - James Morrison is a really good player. Do you expect the Baggies to get stronger as the season rolls on?

  • Comment number 11.

    Its a difficult one to debate as you dont tend to hear much about other teams players apart from the goalscorers. I could list you a few players that are scoring goals regularly but couldnt tell you much about consistent defensive players. I would agree with you about Paul McKenna being forests best player, but i only know that from watching them week in week out. Ask a fan of another club who our best player has been and you will probably be told its Anderson or Blackstock who grab headlines with their attacking play rather than the defensive players on who have given the foundations on which our good run has been built

  • Comment number 12.

    FAO Pieandapintduck........

    I am a PNE fan and i was disappointed that we lost Kenna.

    Has he really been your best player? As you say you don't tend to see other teams much unless you see the goalscorers?

    He had stagnated at PNE and the fans had got on his back a bit but i think the move to Forest and to be re-united with Billy Davies seems to have revitalised his career. What do you think for Saturday Night? 2-1 PNE!! :0)

  • Comment number 13.

    A good player I'm sure, but I cannot think of him at all in any positive light after his thuggish attack on Victor Anichibe in January of this year. His tackle was horrific and bad enough, but the jumping up and effing and blinding at the ref that his red card was unjustified just beggared belief.

    Victor still hasn't played since, and Nolan has not once admitted any wrong doing for that tackle. Disgraceful behaviour.

  • Comment number 14.

    pieandapintduck - You are quite right to say that people banging in the goals tend to grab the headlines when it comes to best in... type pieces. High-scoring players or creative midfielders.

    I guess that goals win games, hence the fact that a goalscorer tends to cost more than players in other positions. A full-back, for example, really has to make an impact to figure in these sort of things.

    What edged me towards Nolan is the fact he is a midfielder and thus his goals have been a real bonus to Newcastle, but also his link-up play and overall value to the team as mentioned with regard to how he allows Hughton to play different formations.

  • Comment number 15.

    Paul, a lot of goalkeepers don't get a mentione. For me, and trying not to be biased, I think Chris Weale has been a summer signing sensation for us. Kept us in so many games, and is extremely consistent.

  • Comment number 16.

    No goalies in your list. I'd nominate Lee Camp who's certainly played a major part in keeping Forest's run without an away defeat alive.

  • Comment number 17.

    Not much competition for Nolan is there? A couple of seasons ago he was being touted for England, so he should definitely be the best player in the Championship.

  • Comment number 18.

    Townendtom - McKenna is just what we were crying out for. An experienced head who sits in midfield, does nothing spectacular breaks up play and keeps things simple and most important he organises other people and does things like badger the ref which none of our younger players could really do. Saturday should be a good game as we tend to be more attack minded at home, have to go for a 3-1 home win. McKenna to score first? Maybe not.

  • Comment number 19.

    I have been a fan of Kevin nolan for quite some time and I cannot for the life of me understand what possessed Bolton to let him go in the first place.You surely do not need to be a rocket scientist to see that the decline of Bolton has come about largely because of Kevin Nolan's departure.Oh well ,I suppose Bolton's loss is Newcastle's gain

  • Comment number 20.

    I would probably agree that he is the best player in the championship this season. We all know he has the ability to score goals from his Bolton days and he is finally delivering for Newcastle but he's also scoring important goals and winning valuable points for Newcastle. He lost a bit of form when he first joined the Toon but never lacked the enthusiasm which probably explains some of this challenges. However, he's found his feet again and playing like a footballer who has played in European football. He's very intelligent and spots things that maybe his team mates don't which is mainly down to the lack of experience of the Newcastle frontmen. He could walk into any of the relagation battlers in the Premier League and make an impact and theres not many players in the Championship you can say that about...

  • Comment number 21.

    #7 - Jose Enrique is an excellent defender, particularly in this division. Nobody ever gets round him, he is strong and quick (perhaps lacks some acceleration but once he gets going he's very fast) and good in the tackle. He is occassionally clumsy with his passing but defensively he very rarely makes mistakes and has been our most consistant player this season, he is certainly not a 'horrible' defender.

  • Comment number 22.

    Paul - I would hope so! Nothing drastically wrong, but we seem to have a little difficulty with teams coming to the Hawthorns and defending with ten men at the moment. Di Matteo probably needs to be a little more experienced tactically, which will come in time. Returning injuries and loans in the new year will hopefully make the difference - Morrison and Miller will be two big players for us, probably what the Chairman is banking on as he doesn't like spending anything after his Christmas dinner!

    Re-reinforcements certainly needed up front - Simon Cox is an Earnshaw in disguise, Moore will slowly descend down the league ladder, and Bednar is lacking sharpness, confidence and a solid partner.

    We have a relatively young team, with several looking in need of a rest - Dorrans and Jara spring to mind - for both their first full season in England. A wily old fox a la Kevin Phillips wouldn't go amiss.

  • Comment number 23.

    #7 Greenst Enrique isn't a horrible defender at all! His positional play is poor I'll give you that but in one on one situations he is fantastic. He's quick, strong and aggressive in the tackle ... and he can bring the ball out of defence under pressure with alarming ease (perhaps reflecting the quality of the division). I agree with the previous poster, Enrique has been Newcastle's best player this season. If he can improve the consistency of his crossing and his positional play he could be a fantastic left back

  • Comment number 24.

    Kev just wasn't cutting it for Bolton anymore that's why we cashed in.
    He was awesome when we got promoted from the Championship, had a cracking first season in the Prem, but never really replicated that form except for one decentish season.

    As for the Everton fans moaning, give it a break!!!

  • Comment number 25.

    On the Subject of Jose Enrique.... Greenst:::: mentioned that Jose is an awful defender...

    I have to disagree, he has been nothing but awseome this season, and i just pray that we can keep him until the end of the season, when if things keep going well we will be back where we belong.
    He and Jonas on the left wing are unstoppable, i know that the quality in the championship is far lower than in the premier league but i do think that they would have the same impact against Blackburn and Fulham as they do against Swansea and Watford.

    Now to Kevin Nolan, now he has been inspirational this season, but most of the work in midfield is done by Alan Smith and the bond that they have got together is getting better and better and it is plain to see. I have been a season ticket holder at St James' since i was 5 im now 17. The firwst year i went Keegan and his attackers were on show.... this season we have Houghton and his pro's.



    from tom... proud geordie!

  • Comment number 26.

    Sam - what do you think Gonzalo Jara? You seem to have plenty of players in your squad who could be in South Africa this summer. I hope they all get a rest before the start of the next pre-season.

    As for the people commenting on the lack of keepers - you are quite right. All suggestions welcome.

  • Comment number 27.

    Wholeheartedly agree with your comments on Nolan and Smith, Paul. They really have formed a fantastic partnership and i think when (not if) Newcastle go back up at the end of the season the pair of them should be able to continue that form back in the Premiership.

    One point though.... Ameobi not prolific so far?

    League games played - 5
    League goals scored - 5

    Not to mention the 1 from 1 in the League Cup.

    So, 6 goals in 6 games. I'd take that from any striker, any day.

  • Comment number 28.

    Chris - the Ameobi goal ratio is great but he hasn't always been available. Might have been slightly different if not for the injuries.

  • Comment number 29.

    Yeh i agree. But he has been prolific. I have to be honest with you though.... he didnt hack it in the premier league.... i for 1 booed him a few seasons ago.
    But at the moment he's doing the business.
    Boro at the Weekend aswell.
    And hes scored 8 in 9 games against the smogs!

  • Comment number 30.

    Patrice Evra was a horrible defender when he first signed for Man Utd... Great going forward... but not as good a defender, although he has worked on that and is probably the most improved player at manchester united, along with Fletcher. But like I was saying, I just don't rate Enrique as a solid defender, fair enough he get's forward well and there's nother better than seeing your wing back and wingers link up, but I just think he's missing something defensively.

  • Comment number 31.

    Paul Fletcher this article shows that you have never seen kevin nolan play live for newcastle apart from maybe on the TV. He is fat, slow and lazy and is/was part of the awful midfield that were the main reason we got relegated.

    Fair enough he has scored a few goals but that's because the standard of the championship is so bad he is able to walk up the other end and get on the end of a cross.

    Even after being relegated our midfield have continued to show how bad they are and we have been outplayed in the majority of our games this season and the only reason we have been winning is we have that little bit of quality upfront and the fact that our defence is that good we normally only need 1 goal to win.

    Talking about best player in the championship... Enrique, Colocinni, Carroll and Ameobi are all better than nolan and that is just at newcastle.

  • Comment number 32.

    Personally, I think Nolan was linked with England during a particularly bad spell for our national team when people like Barton, Dyer etc were also being linked. These were dark days where some part of the media aparently were calling for players with zero class to represent our country.

    I agree with others about his tackle on Anichebe. Disgusting! Always been a bit bored by players like this, although I acknowledge that he's had a nice spell in front of goal. Newcastle are a massive club that still have plenty of players that could play in the prem, so of course they should be leading the championship.

    Here's a real debate, is the Championship weaker this year as players who would have graced the championship sit in reserve teams or warming the bench for Premiership teams who can no longer attract the cream of the crop from Europe with the credit crunch beginning to bite?

  • Comment number 33.

    i just love kevin nolan, he has a great first touch, and the vision of an eagle....i just hope his form carries on and he may still get a England call-up...but ya never know these days...hahaha lol. good blog i really thought it showed a brigther side to Newcastle for once hahaha lol.

  • Comment number 34.

    From a Middlesbrough point of view, i have to agree with Adam Johnson. He has been an influential part of our season so far and although we are struggling in down in 11th am sure he will be snapped up in January! He is a tricky winger with bagfulls of pace and with his desire, you only had to have seen the Cardiff game at the weekend to know what he is all about. Surely he will leave? At Middlesbrough we've seen all the big names come and go, most recently Stewart Downing, but for once, if the board are so certain our money problems are okay, we have to keep hold of him?! Any boro fans have any comments on the situation?... Would love someone with Kevin Nolan's steel in our midfield after the shocking selling of Lee Cattermole a couple of years ago!

    Also how come several premiership reserve strikers namely, Marlon Harewood, Michael Chopra and Rob Earnshaw have gone to championship sides and are scoring for fun, whereas Middlesbrough have brough in more promising strikers in Leroy Lita, Marcus Bent, Dave Kitson and last season Marlon King have barely had a sight of goal since their arrivals on Teesside? Why is this? Surely people are beginning to see the frustrations we see week in, week out at the boro!!

  • Comment number 35.

    Steve Harper.

    Over a decade in the shadow of Shay Given, has pulled off a number of great saves this season that have been one of the major reasons why Newcastle are topping the table - only 12 goals conceded all season.

    If he was playing in the Premiership, he'd have an England call up in the bag - but Capello doesn't look at the lower leagues...

  • Comment number 36.

    Paul - Jara looking decent, certainly started very well, great awareness, but has looked tired over the last few matches - West Bromwich in December a slightly different proposition to Chile in July!

    On paper we should have five players off to the World Cup - looking forward to Koren's Slovenia and 18 y/o Chris Wood with New Zealand.

  • Comment number 37.

    hang on - Nolan has been a brilliant player for us so far but what about Shola Ameobi?

    Paul, you state that Shola hasn't been prolific this season so far, well he's been injured fair enough, but I believe he's played 6 games, and scored 5 goals. That seems (relatively speaking for the amount of games he's played) pretty prolific to me...

  • Comment number 38.

    Steve Harper has been great for Newcastle this season.
    Although the great defensive record can be easily put down to a good defence I think a lot of the credit has to go to Harper as well as Alan Smith.

    He may get carded every game, but he is still a very key player for Newcastle every game.

  • Comment number 39.

    ohh, and I completely agree with Zeppelins_Regroup!

    Harper should be England keeper in my opinion.

    and I dont think I'm being biased there.

  • Comment number 40.

    Nolan was absolutely shocking for 3 years before he left Bolton, so his improved performances in the Championship merely suggest he's found his level.

  • Comment number 41.

    The Liverpudlian has rediscovered his ability to lose his marker and ghost into dangerous positions. His recent goal at Preston was a perfect example.


    Yes, against some very poor championship standard defenders.

    Plenty of players, especially attackers look very good at this level but fail to make any impact on the premier. Chopra? Scotland? Ebanks-Blake? Earnshaw? Nolan is aleady better than these because he proved before that he could make it in the EPL, unfortunately as people got to know his game he was found out.

  • Comment number 42.

    5. At 1:43pm on 16 Dec 2009, JImbob wrote:
    I think you should ask Victor Anichebe of Everton about what he thinks of this article. A horror tackle by Nolan and Anichebe hasnt played since.

    Horrendous assault, even though he done us a favour by ruling this poor player out for a long time, he should have been punished a lot.

    Best player - Adam Hammills of Barnsley has the potential. And Mulululmbu of WBA has impressed me muchly

  • Comment number 43.

    All Nolan and Smith's form this season has confirmed what I already know - that both are chamionship players and nothing more. I can remember Nolan being touted for England - what a disaster that would have been. Decent players, but I believe their form is due to finding their level, nothing else

  • Comment number 44.

    Completely agree with Milky Joe!

  • Comment number 45.

    Rubbish post!

  • Comment number 46.

    Paul, you write that Nolan “has matured over recent years”. Less than a year ago Nolan inflicted a thuggish tackle on Victor Anichebe, who has not been able to play since. I suggest you take another look at it and tell us how “mature” you think Nolan’s tackle and subsequent behaviour was. Do you reckon your “likeable” Mr Nolan will ever be mature enough to apologise?

  • Comment number 47.

    Brian14 (post 46) - thanks for writing. I have seen the tackle Nolan made on Anichebe and agree that it was absolutely shocking. There is no defence for a challenge like that.

    I must admit that I thought that Nolan had apologised in the tunnel the same day to Anichebe and manager David Moyes. Certainly a player ought to be saying sorry at the very least after that sort of tackle.

    My article is based on what he has done this season in terms of his form for Newcastle. I would also defend my comment that he is a likeable bloke - I have met him a few times and he is definitely good company. That does not mean I am defending the Anichebe challenge. That was out of order.

  • Comment number 48.

    Fair point on the lack of availability! Accept that. Let's just hope he can stay fit for the rest of the season and keep hitting the back of the net.

    Thomas - You said you booed Shola a few seasons ago, can't argue that it might have been deserved. Surely agree though that a season down in the Championship can't do anything but good at the moment in terms of player development. Look at how good Chopra has been a division down, hopefully the confidence gained from a good season here will be carried over and the lads up front will drive on from there.

    Just on that 'being-down-being-good' point. All Toon fans not agree that guys like Nile Ranger, Tamas Kadar & Andy Carroll - who want to be at the club - getting 'regular' first-team football as opposed to another spell of average/has-been signings (le Boum, Luque, Xisco) is surely a good thing? I really feel this year away, as long as that's all it is, will be benificial for Newcastle in the long run.

    And hey, trophyless run could come to an end. Oh, I forgot we already won the Intertoto!!

  • Comment number 49.

    Zeppelins_Regroup! - i may be wrong but didn't joe lewis make the squad while playing for league one peterborough ?

    Personally i rate Harper but it's like the beckham debate, hard to judge a player when they are playing week in week out at a poor standard of league (compared to the international level).

    One of the most exciting players to watch in the championship has been Tarabaat at QPR. Has real flair and looks like a player of genuine promise.

  • Comment number 50.

    Although he might no have the consistency to be named player of the season so far, i feel Adel Taarabt is by far the most talented player in the league. This comes from a purely neutral perspective as i'm a chelsea supporter so shouldn't be signing the praises of any QPR player. He is lynchpin of the team and everything good goes through him and he's scored some wonder goals and he's still only 20 years of age. He is some who i feel could make a big impact in the premiership in years to come

  • Comment number 51.

    Posts 49 and 50 - very fair shout, a talented player with a good shot on him. However, my question about Taarabt is this - does he play his best football when QPR really need him? When the team are struggling games? Or have his best moments this season come in games that Rangers have bossed? Also, has he yet worked out the right time to pass?

  • Comment number 52.

    although he might no have? ive never known so many mistakes in 5 words. my apologies to all and to my english teachers at school.

  • Comment number 53.

    fair point he doesn't always look convincing and sometimes looks a little out of depth when things aren't going QPR's way but I think the potential he's showing coupled with the right manager could see him flourish into a real talent. Am I right in thinking he's on loan from Tottenham ? If so it could be very good with Tottenham rarely bringing players through the youth ranks in recent years.

  • Comment number 54.

    i can't say i've watched enough games to argue against you paul, i would say that such qualities are usually scarce in young players (id use victor moses as another example). also i think its rare that players on loan from bigger clubs ever show enough grit and determination when playing for temporary clubs, which might explain to some extent why he goes missing when he is needed most

  • Comment number 55.

    I was very impressed with Taarabt when he played against us. We were 2-0 up and he inspirationally turned it around and ended up beating us 4-2

  • Comment number 56.

    By the way Paul, big fan of the blog, as a Southampton fan I wouldn't mind seeing a blog on how the three teams who dropped out of the championship are doing. Charlton look reborn under Parkinson with Shelvey perhaps one of the brightest stars outside the premiership. Norwich looked a solid unit under Lambert and a good shout to go straight back up. While Pardew (who I really had doubts about when we appointed him) has managed to have us looking a class above the league in many of the games we've played this season with the likes of Morgan and Lallana looking more and more promising.

  • Comment number 57.

    Jose Enrique is head and shoulders above any other player in the Championship. It looks so easy for him at times and I think him and Jonas could stroll into most Premier League teams. As for Nolan, other than the goals he has got he has contributed nothing and has actually been one of our poorest players this season. However if he keeps banging them in, I won't complain.

    As for players I have seen from other teams, Wayne Routledge looked great against us, but I have also saw Taarabt and he looks even better. Tom Cleverly from Watford also looked very composed in the middle.

  • Comment number 58.

    Kevin Nolan? I cannot stand him

  • Comment number 59.

    heh.. the championship (newcastle plus others) show syndrome strikes again.. sorry but the best player i've seen this year was ritchie wellens (leicester)

  • Comment number 60.

    dominic (post 56) - thanks for that. I have written blogs about all three of those clubs this season. Norwich have certainly improved markedly under Paul Lambert. They are a very solid team who have excellent support at home and I fully expect them to be in the frame for a play-off place.

    I wasn't sure about Charlton, who seemed to be on a severe downward spiral and without any hint of their cash problems coming to an end. However, as you say, Parkinson has done very well and in the likes of Selvey, Sam Sodje, Lloyd Sam, Nicky Bailey and Therry Racon have good young(ish) players as well as experience in the likes of Christian Dailly and Deon Burton. They show no sign of cracking and have done well.

    As for Saints. I always thought that given the off-field stabilisation they were in a position to finally move forward. I also thought that despite their dodgy start plus points deduction they should not be written off as promotion contenders. Obviously as the weeks rolled on I started to wonder if I might (yet again) be mistaken on this front, but they look pretty good at the moment.

  • Comment number 61.

    I do remember the blog on us a while back that mentioned the new people at the helm. As a southampton fan I think I speak for many of us when I say it's nice to have something positive to say about the saints. I know it's rather of topic but how do you rate leeds and Huddersfield ? I'd like to think those two and the three aformentioned are the leagues best. Also i'd like to know what you think of Morgan Schneiderlin and Lallana (if you've seen much of them) ?

  • Comment number 62.

    As a Forest fan I'd also suggest Chris Gunter - the best full back we've had in a long-time - and Wes Morgan.
    Other players who have impressed me are Steve Harper who like many I believe should go to South Africa. He's probably the top 'keeper in the Championship just ahead of the excellent Julien Speroni, Chris Weale and our own Lee Camp.
    Defenders that have impressed me are Enrique at Newcastle who looks a class act and Williams at Swansea.
    In midfield you have the obvious Nolan, Whittingham, Adam Johnson, Brunt and Ambrose who have all had excellent seasons. The best midfielder in the Championship though may just be the excellent Charlie Adam at Blackpool. Have seen him on a couple of occasions and he is a class act. As mentioned in other posts Paul McKenna's contribution to our excellent start cannot be overlooked.
    Striker wise Chopra has scored the most goals while Fryatt has also done well. Danny Graham at Watford also impresses me. He may not score as many as the others mentioned but his work-rate is first class. Henderson at Sheffield United is also difficult to play against.

  • Comment number 63.

    dominic - I think Leeds are pretty much dead certs for promotion, while Huddersfield are an excellent young team, with some seriously exciting players such as Jordan Rhodes.

    I really like Lallana, who has a deft touch and the knack of being in the right place to finish an opportunity. Schneiderlin is clearly talented but I worry that he tends to drift out of games - though I haven't seen him for a couple of months.

  • Comment number 64.

    I'd tend to agree but I think leeds may yet slip up. Grayson appears to be a very good manager however I think if Beckford does leave in the new year they could be short of a few goals.

  • Comment number 65.

    I will back up Pauls comment at #63, Leeds will definitely go up unless they somehow implode. Looking at the season they have only lost twice - once to Liverpool and once to Millwall. This is incredible as we have had 9 first team regulars out - Higgs, Crowe, Parker, Naylor, Kisnorbo, Johnson, Becchio, Kilkenny, Hughes - for large parts of the season, not to mention other injuries to squad players.

    Someone said earlier loan players don't give their all for their new clubs and i disagree with this strongly. Leeds have used loan signings incredibly well in the past and also right now. Currently we have Gradel, Ephrahim, Doyle, Capaldi, Vokes as outfield players on loan and they all give their sweat and blood for the team. Its their chance to shine and earn a contract with us.

  • Comment number 66.

    And there is NO WAY Beckford will leave. He only has 6 months on his contract, so is basically worthless - someone will pick him up for a free in the summer. Its not worth selling him for 500k-1mill very max, when getting promoted earns you far more.

    Also we are not a one man team. Up front Grella has always done well coming on as sub, Becchio is class and has played in La Liga before. Vokes is on loan and a highly though of youngster, Kandol has scored goals in almost every game he's played in this year (not so many), and Showumni has also scored a few in his limited appearances and has scored a lot of goals in the reserves. But these guys cant get a sniff ahead of Beckford and Becchio when they are fit, but we do have 3 or 4 strikers capable of stepping in.

  • Comment number 67.

    West Brom fan here. Good shout with Nolan.

    As for Baggies players. Jonas Olsson is without doubt one of the best footballing centre halfs in England - and the best in the CCC by a country mile.

    We have several quality midfielders - Brunt although technically excellent isn't consistent enough and lacks pace and drive. Robert Koren is the most creative player in the division but has rarely featured due to Roberto Di Matteo preffering the more athletic pairing of Dorrans and Mulumbu (More recently Jara).

    From an attacking point of, you have rightly suggested Thomas as the standout performer for us offensively.

    Now my pick for our star player and probably the best in the division is Jara. Bought as a centre half we were sceptical as he's only 5'10 which probably explains why he's been selected in midfield. But he has everything. Superb positioning, tenacity, speed and distribution. We sold Greening for £4m and bought this fella for £1.7m and he is an absolute snip. He's one of these players who can play anywhere and is also very young and hungry.

    Little known about him at the moment but believe me he will be a real star. Keep your eyes open for him. It's easy to see why Chile qualified in 2nd place in South America with this standard of player.

  • Comment number 68.

    Let's be honest the quality of teams in the Championship this season is very poor. I have been both delighted and surprised by the entertaining and open football that (my team) Blackpool have been playing this season...but we are a side without a great deal of talent who get by on hard work and bags of enthusiasm - and we have a shot of reaching the play-offs!

    That said, Charlie Adam has been head and shoulders above most players I've seen this year and he's not been 100% fit all season.

    Andy Carroll has been very impressive...but lets face it, there's not many players in the division who will be lighting up the Premier League in the years's to come!

  • Comment number 69.

    I am a Newcastle United fan and i reckon without Kevin Nolan in action we haven't been playing very well because he has been outstanding this season winning awards and scoring goals he is the best player outside the premier league no doubt about it however other teams may wanna try and get their hands on cash to buy him but i hope we turn every offer down as he can push us back up to the premier league

  • Comment number 70.

    I think if the player of the season was decided today Kevin Nolan probably would win it. He is Premier League quality, and as part of the best team in the Championship it is no surprise he is doing so well.

    There is still a long way to go this season though, and to echo what a fellow Baggies fan said earlier we still have key players to come back, and hopefully they will have a big impact on our season.

    Jara, Mulumbu and Dorrans have all looked good, whilst Chris Brunt can just be frustrating. Cox is scoring goals but isn't Premier League quality by any means. Hopefully Morrison and Miller can play a big part; Morrison did well last year and Miller was finding his feet at the top level before injury. Albion certainly have a host of players who should be taking us back up to the top flight.

    A mention for Taarabt; saw him for QPR monday night and he looked lively, caused us a few problems, he's got plenty of talent.

    A final word on Nolan; will he be able to do it when (surely its when) Newcastle are back in the Premier League? And the challenge on Anichebe was a disgrace.

  • Comment number 71.

    66 phil (the leeds fan). I'm not saying leeds are a one man side, in fact they probably have one of the top three sides in the league (i'd say leeds, charlton and saints) wouldn't like to sort between the three though.

    However i think that IF a premiership team lacking firepower ie west ham, bolton, burnley came in for beckford at or above the £1.5 million mark i could see leeds not standing in his way.

    My point was that promotion for leeds isnt a certainty. yes it is a probability but we all know football rarely follows the expected path and the loss of beckford would hit leeds hard.

  • Comment number 72.

    at the moment a top championship 11 for me would be:

    gk harper (newcastle)

    lb enrique (newcastle)
    rb gunter (forest)
    cb s.taylor (newcastle)
    cb kilgallon (sheff utd)

    lm brunt (west brom)
    rm dyer (swansea)
    cm mckenna (forest)
    cm adam (blackpool)

    att fryatt (leicester)
    att chopra (cardiff)

    best player: charlie adam, everytime seem him play looked awesome

  • Comment number 73.

    As long as he was in decent form Kevin Nolan was a better than average premiership player. He more than held his own. It isn't that surprising that he stands out at a lower level.

    When Newcastle signed him I thought he might actually keep them up. He had the quality, the spirit and the goal-scoring insticts but he couldn't find his form. Mind you, considering the players they had I still can't quite believe that they went down.

  • Comment number 74.

    Grant Leadbitter, is better than Nolan if you ask me, and is the best player in the division, simple as tbh.

  • Comment number 75.

    15. At 2:03pm on 16 Dec 2009, Sunil Parmar wrote:
    Paul, a lot of goalkeepers don't get a mentione. For me, and trying not to be biased, I think Chris Weale has been a summer signing sensation for us. Kept us in so many games, and is extremely consistent

    Did you see him this poast fprtnight, shocking against Forest, shcoing against Bristol and niot much better against sheff wed. I agree about the keeper senario though and have to say Camp who has been a revelation between the post for us reds.

  • Comment number 76.

    As a POSH fan I thought I would offer a view from the other end of the division. Our best player this season, and the last two promotion seasons before that, has been George Boyd. A quality performer, genius on his day, who has proved he is more than good enough for this level with 11 goals from left wing in a struggling side.

    Would have to say the best player i've seen this season is Chris Brunt for West Brom, Adam Johnson also looked impressive for Middlesbrough.

  • Comment number 77.

    I've already mentioned the top player at my supported club West Brom, Gonzalo Jara, who should be a serious contender for best player in the division.

    But another who has impressed me time and time again as a neutral is Chris Burke at Cardiff. A lot of people talk about Ledley and Chropa but for me Burke has been their MOTM every time i have seen them play this season both on TV and live at the Hawthorns.

    Tarabbt is also a good shout at QPR. IMO he is a Premiership player. Not quite sure how Magilton had him on the bench for some games. I'd love him on the opposite flank to Thomas down the baggies.

  • Comment number 78.

    #71 Hi Dominic. I would be very interested to see if anyone will be willing to take a gamble on Beckford, because i can tell you, they would be wasting their money. At this level he scores goals - but he misses far more than he scores. Becchio works his socks off on Beckfords behalf and at no other club in ANY of the divisions will Beckford get more chances. Against Kettering we made 50 chances/shots on goal - i would say Beckford had a quarter of them and he scored 1. His ratio would normally be 1 goal to every 5 golden chances. But at Leeds he gets chance after chance after chance. And he still isnt top scorer in the division. His link up play isnt great and he goes totally missing in big games. To be 100% honest i hope he signs a new contract so we can see what he is like in the Championship, but thats the limit for him. He will never ever be a Premier League player in a month of Sundays.

    I agree that Leeds are guaranteed nothing and knowing Leeds we will probably blow it. But this is the best Leeds team ive seen in a long while, very exciting to watch. In your top 3, id have to make it a top 4 as Norwich are just as good as Saints and Charlton.

  • Comment number 79.

    Kevin Nolan is doing well in the championship because, as other Bolton fans have said, he has found his level. If you watch his performances closely, you will see he does not have what it takes to be consistent at premiership level. He played well for us when he had great players around him(Okocha, Campo, Djorkaeff)When they left, he was caught out and at times was clueless. Which was a shame.

  • Comment number 80.

    I agree with the post overall, Nolan is doing well for Newcastle. He seems to genuinely care about the fortunes of the club and provides experience, especially in front of goal. However, I would have to say from what I have seen I think Adam Johnson is the best player in the Championship. Would love to have him at Newcastle; Jonas is a grafter but more often than not seems to lack an end product. Saying this, him and Enrique have at times been excellent down the left for us this season.

  • Comment number 81.

    As a Newcastle fan and season ticket holder, I'm delighted that we seem to be heading back up. This season so far has been a very enjoyable experience and refreshing playing in more humble surroundings in the Championship.

    However I don't want to heap too much praise on Nolan or Hughton. We're defending well, are organised throughout and more importantly the players seem to be playing for each other, as a team unit. It seems Hughton deserves some credit for his management of the players in what appeared to be a precarious situation. That's as far as I'd extend the praise. We are scraping victories due to our players being of a significantly higher quality than the rest of the league, the style of play is dreadful to watch and Hughton's tactical decisions at times are very poor. For me he's a nice guy who lacks the ability to be a manager, and I certainly wouldn't trust him to spend money correctly on improving the team and then attempt to keep us in the Premier League.

    Nolan has been great for us in the fact he's getting goals, however this glazes over the fact that for the most of the time games pass him by. He looks off the pace and unfit in the middle and struggles to have an impact. His ability to read attacks and move into positions to score goals coupled with how (surprisingly) poor the division is in terms of quality is making him look better than what he is, imo.

    I don't want to sound totally pessimistic but this is just how I see things at the moment. Like I've said I'm really enjoying the season so far. I just feel we'll have an almighty struggle to stay up next season with Hughton in charge, lets not forget this team is essentially the team that got us relegated - minus the likes of Owen, Viduka, Martins, Beye, Bassong and Duff. If we were to go up we'd need atleast 5 or 6 quality improvements as far as personel is concerned to stand any chance of surviving.

    Hopefully we gain promotion this season, buy some young hungry players, instill the same team mentality we have at the moment and maybe we'll survive. No more stupid wages and transfer fees on has-been players, the idea of 'experienced players' has done us absolutely nothing in the past except make a significant dent in the clubs finances. We need to invest in bringing in young English and South American talent simlar to that of Wigan. Maybe then when we reach the likes of Wigan's level we can build from there and maybe push onto challenge for Europe again.

    With Ashley still here however, I'm not gonna hold my breath. The future certainly looks bleak rather than bright.

  • Comment number 82.

    Being an Ipswich Town Fan id have to say that Grant Leadbitter is the best player. I think the vision that he has is next to none and his work rate is top notch. hes just an all rounded quality player.. at this level

  • Comment number 83.

    I have to agree with the Posh fan - George Boyd is the classiest player in the division, and the fact that fans of most visiting teams to London Road ask if they can have him tells its own story. Charlie Adam is also a very good shout.

  • Comment number 84.

    This blog appears to be in the wrong place, it would be better suited on Newcastle's 606 page.

    Yes Newcastle are walking away with this division but look at the squad of players they've got. They should have all been off loaded for giving up so easily last season when their Premiership status was at stake.

    I bet Kevin Nolan would read this with a red face and hope none of his ex premiership colleagues see it as it rather suggests dropping down a division he has found his true level.

    He's not a bad player but two for a penny in the top flight.

  • Comment number 85.

    #81 cant believe your down beat mood. You should be shouting from the roof top mate. Nobody predicted Newcastle to be running away with this division. I thought they would be mid table and pushing play offs at best, having lost quite a few of your better players and those who were remaining suffering from a relegation hangover. The fact Hughton has got you where you are is no small achievement. Unfortuantely you come across as ungrateful and a bit of a typical Geordie that you think you should steam roller everyone 5-0 just because its the Championship, and you are a 'big club'. It doesn't work like that. Would your beloved Shearer have you in this position at this stage of the saeson? I very much doubt it. Look at Boro without Southgate, i bet Mr Gibson is regretting that decision now. Football is fickle and most people are too unrealistic about their clubs position.

    Also those on the Steve Harper bandwagon - WAKE UP! When Given left Newcastle and Harper had to play you went from mid table to relegation, trust me there was a correlation between those factors. He has never stood out in the Premier League when given his chance - thats why he was always a reserve keeper. So he has a few clean sheets behind a solid defence in a weak league - wait till you are back in the Premiership and then you will be crying out for a new keeper. So saying Harper for England is one of the best jokes of 2009!

  • Comment number 86.

    Luis Enrique looks like Tyrone off Coronation Street.

  • Comment number 87.

    Best player, Kyle Walker, Sheffield United ( on loan from Spurs who bought him for £3m approx in the summer ) Strangely enough a Nolan tackle put him out of our game at Bramall Lane.

  • Comment number 88.

    To build on Kyle's excellent team (post 72), I couldn't agree more about his selection of Nottingham Forest's Paul McKenna. For me, PM is the absolute difference between our last season's mediocrity and this season's high-flying. If only Guy Moussi were around a bit more too!

  • Comment number 89.

    @Toffeegod "Nolan has not once admitted any wrong doing for that tackle. Disgraceful behaviour." and all the others slating Nolan for failing to apologise to Anichebe. Just Google Nolan Sorry Anichebe, and you'll come across something like that below. It hardly requires intense research...

    "Newcastle's Kevin Nolan has apologised for his tackle on Everton's Victor Anichebe which resulted in him being red carded and receiving a 3 match ban. The midfielder made his first apology to Anichebe after waiting for him in the tunnel at half time, he then went and addressed his team mates during the interval apologising for leaving them a man down. Nolan's third apology was to Everton manager David Moyes who he sought out after the game."

    How many apologies do you need?

  • Comment number 90.

    "Newcastle's Kevin Nolan has apologised for his tackle on Everton's Victor Anichebe which resulted in him being red carded and receiving a 3 match ban. The midfielder made his first apology to Anichebe after waiting for him in the tunnel at half time, he then went and addressed his team mates during the interval apologising for leaving them a man down. Nolan's third apology was to Everton manager David Moyes who he sought out after the game."

    How many apologies do you need?

    I make it three.

  • Comment number 91.

    As an ex-pat Geordie, living abroad, I actually went into this season with pretty high hopes.

    I just wasn’t convinced that the Championship was that strong. Just on the basis that I went to games, and watched Newcastle completely hammer West Brom and Boro in the premier league.

    I was just thinking, if we keep the majority of our players, are there going to be that many teams better than West Brom or Middlesbrough – who are pretty average.

    And there isn’t in truth.

    The problems relegated clubs have is that they:

    A: Didn’t have very good players anyway
    B: Lost them all when they got relegated.

    Newcastle suffered from neither. Our form was championship level last year, but our players were certainly not.

    If a manager could get the attitude right, we were always going to do well.

    We’ve just done well as:

    1: We have a very strong squad. Better than a lot of premiership teams. Other than our big name players, we also have about 2 under 21 regulars, and 5 under 19 regulars. There is a heck of a lot of talent there.

    2: The championship is a strong league, if you have championship level players when you head down there. It’s not if you are a legit premier league first 11. Even the best teams aren’t that good – West Brom, Cardiff and teams like that are average at best.

    3: Newcastle are incredibely solid these days. Hughton, tactically, has changed a lot of things. If anything we are the classic counter attacking side now. We almost play Mourinho sort of tactics.

    We have the best defence in the league by a long way, and rarely let in goals.

    4: We just have a lot of class in the side, that other teams don’t. For all their failings, guys like Collicini, Steven Taylor, Ryan Taylor, Nolan, Butt, Harewood, Ameobi, Alan Smith, Gutierrez, are legit premiership level players. 3 of them will be playing games in the world cup in the summer. Steven Taylor the England Under 21 captain. Butt, Smith, have won premiership winners medals. A lot of the squad have champions league experience.

    As I said, I was one of these people who just thought we’d storm the league as soon as the transfer window closed to be honest.

  • Comment number 92.


    Sadly Phil, most southern fans just have an opinion of "geordies" and just rise to the comments of a small minority of our fan base.

    If you go on a Man Utd board, you'll find fans saying Anderson is world class, Berbatov is one of the best forwards in the world, and Ryan Giggs was better than Pele.

    As I said, there are a lot of (southern) fans who rather take delight in this sort of rant. And merely look out for the minority of comments, as if to prove that all geordies are "loony".

    I assure you, if you actually took time to talk to Newcastle season ticket holders, you'd realize they are incredibely realistic about the club.

    And the image you try to project, is merely trying to highlight the words of about 1% of the fan base.

    As an example, in a Newcastle fanzine vote, 55% of the fans were actually against the appointment of Keegan.

    Do the London tabloids want that? of course not. So they find a fan with a messiah sign, and try to claim that the whole support thinks that.

    It's an old London tabloid trick to feed southerners with amusing stories about "geordies", "scots" and "scousers".

    Nearly all of which are pure fantasy.

  • Comment number 93.

    "Also those on the Steve Harper bandwagon - WAKE UP! When Given left Newcastle and Harper had to play you went from mid table to relegation, trust me there was a correlation between those factors."

    Given was one of the prime reasons we had a poor defence. For all his shot stopping brilliance, his command of a defence, and a penalty area is bordering on hapless.

    The reason the Cechs, Lehmanns, Van de Sars, Reinas of this world make the odd mistake, is the fact that they come out for almost every cross that comes into the box.

    Given was a good shot stopper, but never came off his line. His first line of defence wasn't punching it out, or claiming it.

    It was just waiting for someone to have a chance, and then saving it.

    So you have a highlight reel of super saves, but not a single clip of him claiming a cross, or punching a ball out.

    Newcastle fans have for a long time thought that Harper was actually a better keeper than Given, as he had a better all round game.

    And there weren't too many tears when Shay was sold.

    I think it's foolish to suggest that our new defensive look doesn't have a lot to do witht he fact that Harper is in goal, and commanding the box.

    We just look very very organized.

    There is a reason the Man Utds and Arsenals and Liverpools have never bothered with Given, and it's above.

    He's a great shot stopper, but his command of the box, and organization of a defence is hopeless.

    Big teams want goalies who come out for almost everything. On the basis that even if they make mistakes, the net result is generally a better defense. They'll stop more chances than they will create, by coming out a lot.

    Shay isn't any good at the above. As he's barely 6 foot tall.

    If you look at Man Citys defence at the minute, I think it's perfectly obvious that the problems have just followed him there

  • Comment number 94.

    "Given left Newcastle and Harper had to play you went from mid table to relegation, trust me there was a correlation between those factors"

    None of that statement is true. I think we were 16th when Given left!

  • Comment number 95.

    As far as I can see, and I saw Newcastle beat Sheff Utd with a lucky deflected goal, then Newcastle's midfield are basically intimidating. Smith and Nolan stop people playing with wild tackles and aggression and refs, who for some reason, think that Newcastle should be in the Premiereship, allow them to get away with it. They are not really a good team as their own supporters commented on BBC championship programme recently. Nolan is quite a cynical player whoes tackles are likely to put people out of the game or to trhink twice next time they hold the ball. Kyle Walker was injured this way as the Sky replays showed. The incompetent ref allowed play to continue. As most fans know Championship refs are really poor. Bookings for anything but not for violent play. Most are frightened by the players.

  • Comment number 96.

    From a Bristol City point of view I would say Ivan Sproule.He is normally left on the bench and bought on as a supersub. When he comes on the whole team is lifted and he exictes the crowd with his blistering pace and skill. When he started angainst Leicester recently he beat four players and finished with a spectacular chip for possibly the goal of the season. I'm not saying he's the best player in the championship but he is certainly one of the best subs. Other Contenders from Bristol City are Evander Sno and our star striker nicky maynard. Paul Hartley is also a very good player.

  • Comment number 97.

    @Andrew - "I make it three."

    Aye, thanks for that.

    I meant how many apologies do people like Toffeegod need to see to realise that maybe Nolan has admitted wrongdoing and has apologised. Jesus, even Paul couldn't be bothered to do a 15-second google check on whether the mud being slung at Nolan was justified. And he's supposed to be a journalist.

  • Comment number 98.

    The reason the Cechs, Lehmanns, Van de Sars, Reinas of this world make the odd mistake, is the fact that they come out for almost every cross that comes into the box.

    Cech? Not the best example on current form!

  • Comment number 99.

    I smell the inevitable Premier League combine harvesters warming up the engines for January.
    If your lower league club harbours players showing any kind ambition or form... especially those in the financial situation as Newcastle... then be prepared for an exodus. Andy Carroll has already been linked with a move away, possibly to Bolton (loan or otherwise).
    The bargaining chip? Premier league football and slightly higher wage bills. Although, admittedly clubs targeting Newcastle players will probably be those hovering above or deep in the Relegation Zone.
    Its a chicken and the egg thang, or rather, a downwards spiral... Newcastle at the moment are looking to decimate the opposition and guarantee automatic promotion, and thus Premier League football next season. However, they may not be guaranteed this if harvesting begins to work... which is cause enough to leave a club in itself if your mates are leaving and no one is being properly replaced.
    I reckon Mike Ashley will need at least £20m in January to potentially compensate for any outgoings. Money they will recieve from transfers are likely to be, an average of £3m per player. Including Smith, Nolan, Carrol, Enrique and Collocini.
    If not in January, then at the end of the season.

  • Comment number 100.

    #97 Yes Chalker I got the jist of your post.

    I would have googled it myself but I'm forbidden from looking at none work related web sites whilst sat here at work......


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