Player Of The Weekend – Kevin Nolan

It would be criminal for this column to name anyone other than Kevin Nolan as player of the weekend.

A hat trick in the most entertaining game of the weekend and an equally masterful performance by the Newcastle captain means everyone else was put in the shade this weekend. Saturday was marked out by a number of solid performances, Andrey Arshavin and Cesc Fabregas pulled the strings as their Arsenal side peppered Robert Green’s goal for 90 minutes. Rob Green deserves mention for keeping the Emirates crowd quiet as he reminded everyone there was a time he wasn’t such a bad choice as England’s number one.

At Ewood Park, Brett Emerton and Mame Diouf gave a master class in counter-attacking, even if they did not show the same skill when they could see the whites of Petr Cech’s eyes.

Mick McCarthy has taken some abuse for the way his Wolverhampton Wanderers side has played at times this season. As they took the three points against Manchester City yesterday, the performance of Matt Jarvis showed that McCarthy has an eye for attacking play as well as crunching tackles. Manchester City’s millionaires were put to shame by the intelligent attacking play Jarvis used to rip the City defence apart over and over again.

St. James’ Park was the place to be for good performances this weekend, unless of course your postcode begins SR. Kevin Nolan was the pick of those in black and white, but two-goal Shola Ameobi and the constant menace of Andy Carroll deserve praise too. Watching the way Newcastle destroyed a Sunderland side it was impossible to imagine this was a team relegated 18 months ago.

Kevin Nolan is the beating heart of the Newcastle team. With players of his quality running around the pitch Chris Hughton’s side were never going to spend more than one season out of the top tier. In 296 games for Bolton, Nolan scored 40 goals. In the 64 games since his £4million move to the North East he has scored 24 goals. That is quite an improvement. There are strikers who do not have that return. Nolan has developed into so much more than the player he was at Bolton.

Ignoring the fact that he scored his hat trick against his clubs biggest rivals in one of the fiercest Derby atmosphere’ you will find in the league, the manner of them shows how good the Newcastle captain is. Completing his hat trick with a lovely late run to the back post to nod Ameobi’s flick in, he looked the consummate striker.

It might be the goals that have made him this weekend’s top player, but it is the way he has taken to the club that makes him such a hero on Tyneside. Most of his post match interview with five live was dedicated to defending his manager, making sure the owners knew the players were behind Hughton. Having just scored a hat trick in the clubs biggest game of the season, Nolan chose to talk about the club. That should say it all.

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