‘One of the best midfielders in the division’ - what has been said about Bristol Rovers’ new signing Jon Nolan

Jon Nolan was once named one of the best midfielders in League One by a former manager. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)Jon Nolan was once named one of the best midfielders in League One by a former manager. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)
Jon Nolan was once named one of the best midfielders in League One by a former manager. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images) | Getty Images
There has been plenty said about Bristol Rovers’ most recent signing after his arrival on Tuesday evening

Bristol Rovers yesterday completed the shock signing of experienced midfielder Jon Nolan on a free transfer, joining at least until the end-of-the-season.

The 29-year-old joined after being released from his contract at Ipswich Town on Deadline Day and joins in a position that is not short of options.

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Nolan, hails from Huyton, the same area of Liverpool as Gas boss Joey Barton, joining a number of Merseyside based players and personnel at the Memorial Stadium.

The first thing for Rovers and Nolan to hope for is that he is able to put behind him a of injuries after spending the last year away from the football pitch.

At just shy of 30, Nolan has already played in the Championship but also played in the non-league, giving those who have managed him the chance to share their opinion on him.

Paul Hurst was a big fan of Jon Nolan and took him in at three clubs. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)Paul Hurst was a big fan of Jon Nolan and took him in at three clubs. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
Paul Hurst was a big fan of Jon Nolan and took him in at three clubs. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images) | Getty Images

What three-time manager Paul Hurst said about Jon Nolan

The man who worked with him at three clubs in his career and signed him twice, at both Ipswich and at Shrewsbury, perhaps is one of the best positioned to offer an opinion.

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“I believe he’s good enough to play in League One and even higher,” said Hurst to the Shropshire Star in June 2017 on the back of giving him a three-year deal.

“We want him to go on as high as possible, but hopefully with ourselves. “He’s got all the attributes to do that.”

In the same season, Nolan rewarded him for his commitment in giving him such a lengthy contract. He had his best season statistically in football, making 55 appearances across all competitions, got nine goals and six assists, which was a respectable return from central midfield.

Shrewsbury reached the play-off final but agonisingly lost to Rotherham United at Wembley Stadium, missing out on the chance of Championship football.

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What Paul Cook said about Jon Nolan

Despite missing out on promotion, Nolan would get his chance of testing himself in the second tier as he was brought to Ipswich alongside Aristote Nsiala after Hurst left the club.

Nolan would play half a season but after Hurst was sacked, he struggled to get in to Paul Lambert's team and was dropped in and out of the team.

Both Nolan and Kayden Jackson were accused by Paul Lambert of letting the Ipswich down and were made to train with the under-23’s, thus bringing a question mark to his time in Suffolk.

Paul Cook was frustrated when Jon Nolan picked up his injury. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)Paul Cook was frustrated when Jon Nolan picked up his injury. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)
Paul Cook was frustrated when Jon Nolan picked up his injury. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images) | Getty Images

When Lambert was sacked and replaced by Paul Cook, it looks like the midfielder could have got back into the fold but unfortunately it never came.

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Whilst he never got to manage him properly, there was a desire from Paul Cook to work closely with him and he was identified as a player he’d followed before his arrival at Portman Road.

When the player first picked up his injury, the Ipswich boss was just getting his foot in the door and getting a feel for things.

But when injury happened, there was a feeling of frustration from Cook as Nolan was one player he had envisaged building his team around.

"I had an idea of the squad before I arrived and he was a player I was really looking forward to working with,” said Cook in March 2021.

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"I’ve followed his career closely and seen him progress at clubs.

"He’s the type of player that I really like.”

Sadly for Cook, he wouldn’t get the chance to work any more with him as he would be relieved of his duties in December and was later replaced by Ken McKenna.

The main reason was down to the number of set backs that Nolan had on his recovery to first-team action, recovering from a lengthy knee and calf injury.

“The Jon Nolan I remember was at Shrewsbury Town as a midfielder that was probably one of the best midfielders in the division,” said Cook in an update in October. “It’s been three years since I’ve seen Jon now.

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“He’s now missed the whole of pre-season, which as you can imagine is a massive blow for Jon. “These lads don’t want to be injured, they don’t want to not be fit. In my time here now, I haven’t seen Jon Nolan train.”

His last competitive appearance for Ipswich came towards the end of January 2021 so there will be a lot of work done by the medical staff to make sure he is up to speed to deal with League Two.

What has Jon Nolan said about himself?

In his own words, Nolan said that his attitude had let him down during the early stages of his career and that is why he didn’t succeed straight away.

He didn’t get his first chance in the Football League until the age of 24, making him a late bloomer as he worked his way up through the football ladder.

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At clubs like Stockport, Lincoln City and Wrexham, he failed to hold down a place in the team but at Grimsby Town he reinvented himself and earned a move to Chesterfield in League One.

“I knew I’ve always had the ability but maybe my attitude wasn’t what it should have been,” he said to the Derbyshire Times back in October 2016.

“I probably wouldn’t have admitted that back in the day, but I think I can now.

“I knew that I’m a good player but confidence is a big thing with me.

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“I would normally sulk a lot if I wasn’t in the team, instead of working hard to get back in.”

Nolan’s desire to always be in the first-team or at least in the match day squad can be seen as a double-edged sword because there is an obvious desire to influence the team.

Given the options currently in his position though this won’t be an easy task for him to just waltz his way through to an immediate selection.

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