Jon Nolan is a player with whom I have a fascination of sorts. I really liked to see him in a City shirt, he is cultured and tenacious with an eye for playing the ball across the pitch. The trouble is, he hasn’t displayed a great attitude over the years.
Somehow, despite the allegations of him being surly and troublesome, he has blagged another move to a League One club. He’s signed a deal with Shrewsbury today, meaning he stays in League One whilst his Chesterfield side prepare for life in the basement division.
Nolan started life at Everton, and following two years at Stockport he rocked up at Lincoln as part of Gary Simpson’s squad rebuilding. As I’ve said, I liked him a lot. He is a ‘proper’ footballer, perhaps not one for thunderous challenges, but he carries ability to spread the ball and spot a pass. He made 75 appearances for City, scoring six goals and he earned himself an England C call up. Despite these impressive numbers, he never truly endeared himself to Imps fans.
When his best mate, Sean Newton, left for Wrexham, he remained at City. He looked a forlorn and lonely figure for those final few games, and after a visit from Wrexham he stuck in a transfer request. Who should sign him? Wrexham. His City days were over, despite this only being a loan move.
He was eventually released by Chris Moyses, and to complete his transition from hero to zero, he signed for Grimsby Town. What is even more galling is he starred for them as they eventually won the play-offs. Town fans could not understand how we’d let this cultured professional go, why when we were struggling in mid-table would we release a footballer of his quality? They talked him up as Grimsby started putting all their play through him, so much so Danny Cowley noticed it as Braintree manager and tried to counteract it in their play-off semi-final.
Nolan won Man of the Match that night, and as match sponsors a representative of the company I worked for presented him with his award. He allegedly refused to speak to them, refused to pose for photographs and declared the award ‘meaningless’ given the result. The wife of one of our depot managers was so angry, she took to social media to vent her frustration.
After winning the play-off final, Grimsby looked to life in the Football League. The player they’d given a break to, a player returned to Lincoln by Wrexham and then discarded, he chose to look for a better move. Loyalty is a rare thing in football, and for every Luke Waterfall or Paul Farman, there is a Lee Angol or Jon Nolan. He duly signed for Chesterfield on a two-year deal.
Today, after an uninspiring time at Chesterfield, he signed for League One side Shrewsbury for an ‘undisclosed’ fee. Paul Hurst, his manager at Grimsby, is delighted, claiming:
“He’s just a very good footballer, he can play anywhere across the middle of the pitch, he can play in behind the striker if needs be. If he plays in those wide areas he can give something different from a traditional winger, he’s an intelligent footballer, and for me he’s got all the attributes to do well in the modern game. Technically he’s very, very good, he’s comfortable in possession, he’s not someone I’d describe as having pace but he glides with the ball.”
Hurst is right, when all other elements are taken out of it, Jon Nolan is a good footballer. I lamented his loss at the time, and I still believe with the right guidance he has the potential to be a very good player. Is he already there, given that he’s still in League One? Perhaps. I suspect geography is much to do with his latest move, he is far closer to his native North West. Maybe that is the key to him achieving the potential he undoubtedly has.