Nolan's Ipswich career was packed with highs, lows, exile and injury

Jon Nolan's Ipswich Town career has come to an end

Jon Nolan's Ipswich Town career has come to an end - Credit: Pagepix

Jon Nolan has left Ipswich Town after his contract was mutually terminated, ultimately joining Bristol Rovers. Andy Warren looks back at his Portman Road career.

And then there were two. 

Of Paul Hurst’s haul of permanent Ipswich Town signings in the summer of 2018, only Janoi Donacien and Kayden Jackson remain. 

Jon Nolan’s now followed Ellis Harrison, Jordan Roberts, Gwion Edwards and Toto Nsiala out of the Portman Road exit door. Town paid in the region of £6million for those seven players but have barely recouped a penny.  

Paul Hurst went to former club Shrewsbury Town to recruit Toto Nsiala and Jon Nolan for a combined �

Jon Nolan and Toto Nsiala joined Ipswich Town from Shrewsbury - Credit: Archant

Harrison’s 2019 sale to Portsmouth only served to pay up the balance on the original deal to buy him from Bristol Rovers. Roberts and Edwards both left for free and Town brought in a nominal fee for Nsiala’s move to Fleetwood. Jackson is out of contract in a few months, too. 

All of those players have had their struggles at Town, particular when asked, as a collective, to form the core of a Championship team having never played at that level of football before. 

But of all of them, you could certainly argue Nolan made the best fist of it. Playing in the Championship was a big deal for Nolan. That’s why he and Nsiala had both agitated in order to make the move, handing in transfer requests at Shrewsbury to force through the £2million double deal. 

Jon Nolan scores Ipswich's first goal at Birmingham City. Photo: Pagepix

Nolan's first Ipswich goal came against Birmingham - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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He had some tough moments but, by the time 2019 rolled around, the former Shrewsbury midfielder was a central figure in the side and was beginning to show his quality on a weekly basis. The 1-1 draw at West Brom, in which he scored, stands out, but he was consistently good during a run when Town drew six of seven matches by that same scoreline. 

He had tenacity, excellent close control, a tight turning circle and, when playing with confidence, was able to make the box and threaten goal. 

Town ultimately went down with something of a whimper but, such were Nolan’s performances and his history with Shrewsbury in League One, he was viewed as a player who could potentially take the third tier by storm as part of an Ipswich star dubbed in some quarters as ‘League One All-Stars'. 

But, as we all well know, it didn’t work out like that for the Blues. 

Jon Nolan celebrates his headed equaliser at West Brom with Jonas Knudsen during the second half Pic

Jon Nolan celebrates his headed equaliser at West Brom with Jonas Knudsen - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Nolan had injury troubles in pre-season and, once Paul Lambert began tinkering and employing a rotation system, he never truly established himself in the Ipswich side. Not many did. The midfielder started three League One games in a row just once in 2019/20, before the season was halted due to coronavirus. Starting back-to-back games was a fairly rare occurrence, too. 

At his best, Nolan is a classy midfielder with the attributes previously mentioned but, when he wasn’t firing, he can look a little sluggish and one-paced while struggling to put his mark on games. 

Those accusations couldn’t be levelled at him once football returned from the Covid shadow at the start of 2020/21, though. He was arguably Ipswich’s best player in the opening month of the campaign. He started each of the first seven games, scoring three times, and was playing his best football in an Ipswich shirt. 

Jon Nolan jumps for joy after scoring Ipswich Town's equaliser against Derby County in midweek. Phot

Jon Nolan jumps for joy after scoring Ipswich Town's equaliser against Derby County in midweek. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

It was during these early weeks of the campaign he showed another side of his game, when he was sent off for a crude swipe in the final minutes of the loss at Lincoln. Frustration boiled over. He was certainly capable of delivering a niggly foul in games, with the one he committed on Max Aarons on the Carrow Road touchline sparking the infamous brawl during Ipswich and Norwich’s last meeting in March of 2019. 

After that incident a Sincil Bank, Nolan started only five more league games for Ipswich. 

Exile and injury saw to that, with the Liverpudlian sent to train with the Under 23s for an extended period following a disagreement with Lambert over traveling arrangements for a game at Lincoln. Nolan voiced his belief he shouldn’t have to travel, leaving his new baby and partner at home, given he wasn’t even going to make the bench for the game. 

He and fellow bomb squad member Jackson both returned to senior training under caretaker Matt Gill, immediately after Lambert’s sacking, but his first session back proved to be the beginning of the end of Nolan’s Ipswich career. 

Gwion Edwards and Jon Nolan celebrate during a 2-0 league win Bristol Rovers. Picture: Pagepix Ltd

Gwion Edwards and Jon Nolan celebrate during a 2-0 league win Bristol Rovers. Picture: Pagepix Ltd

Such was his desire to impress, he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Calf problems followed, as did a number of other injuries which kept him out for more than a year. 

By then, Paul Cook has been appointed and sacked, before Kieran McKenna’s arrival. He neither made an appearance for either. 

The writing was on the wall for Nolan and it was no surprise when his contract was terminated on deadline day. 

Unused sub Jon Nolan at Wigan

Unused sub Jon Nolan at Wigan - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

He ended up scoring 10 in 70 Ipswich games – not a bad ratio considering none of the sides he played in were particularly good – but he leaves having not fulfilled the potential he showed in flashes. 

So, what’s next for Jon Nolan? 

Well, he’s already hooked up with Bristol Rovers, having had a string of clubs from the Championship, League One and League Two show interest once it was clear he would become a free agent. 

Jon Nolan has signed for Bristol Rovers

Jon Nolan has signed for Bristol Rovers - Credit: BRFC

Clearly his fitness is going to be under the microscope but, if he’s able to get on the field consistently, there’s every reason to believe he can be the best midfielder in League Two. 

He’s only 29 and has plenty of years left, so the chances are we’ll see Nolan work his way back into at least the third tier in the coming years. 

Will his season with Ipswich in the Championship be his only chance at that level? We’ll see.