KEVIN Nolan went through the agony of relegation with Newcastle United four years ago, writes Miles Starforth.
It wasn’t an experience he would wish on any fellow professional, and the midfielder is hoping history doesn’t repeat itself at his old club.
Now captain of tomorrow’s opponents West Ham United, Nolan could unwittingly have a say in Newcastle’s Premier League fate.
However, the 30-year-old would take no satisfaction in edging the club further towards the Championship, the unforgiving division he led Sam Allardyce’s side out of last season.
“I can’t believe they’re in the situation they’re in,” Nolan said.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to be in that situation, and I certainly don’t like seeing Newcastle there.
“They’ve got to make sure they stick together.
“I’m sure they’ll have enough to stay up, and then they can reassess in the summer.
“It’s a shame as they were building something.”
Nolan was an inlfuential figure on and off the pitch in Newcastle’s renaissance.
The team spirit which took the club out of the Championship – and to Premier League safety the following season – was forged by Nolan and a clutch of senior professionals.
Nolan’s only regret remains the abrupt nature of his departure in the summer of 2011.
The Liverpudlian was hoping to commit his long-term future to the club, but a new deal couldn’t be agreed, and Allardyce – who managed him at Bolton Wanderers – came calling.
Newcastle’s loss has been West Ham’s gain.
“I’ve got memories of really great times at Newcastle – I loved my time there,” he said.
“The way I left wasn’t great, but I’ve still got respect for everyone up there.
“It’s a great club, and it was good to be part of it.
“I hope they get out of it, but we want to get 45 points. We want to win.
“I can’t wait for it. Going back up to Newcastle was a massive thing for me, and I’m looking forward to this game.”
The make-up of the dressing room has changed significantly since Nolan – whose hat-trick in the club’s 5-1 win over Sunderland went down in Geordie folklore – last led Newcastle out of the tunnel at St James’s Park.
The club’s recruitment has predominantly been concentrated in the French market over the past couple of years.
“A lot of people are saying it’s about the foreign players, I don’t believe that,” said Nolan.
“But it’s always important to have a British core to your squad, three or four lads in your ranks who can step up.”
Alan Pardew’s players, beaten 6-0 by Nolan’s boyhood club Liverpool last weekend, need to step up – and quick.