Newcastle midfielder Kevin Nolan is desperate to make up for lost time after enduring one of the most frustrating months of his career. The 26-year-old was making just his third appearance for the club he joined in a £4million switch from Bolton in January when he was sent off for an ugly challenge on Everton's Victor Anichebe, earning himself a three-match ban. As a result, he was left kicking his heels in the stands as the Magpies slipped to successive defeats by his former club and Manchester United and then managed to pick up only a point at Hull.
Nolan returned to action in Saturday's 3-1 home defeat by Arsenal, a result which left the Magpies in the relegation zone and two points from safety. His enforced lay-off left him struggling for match fitness, but he was glad just to be involved once again.
Nolan said: "I have been walking around kicking the cat and headbutting walls.
"It has been frustrating, really, as I'm at a new club.
"If you look at it in a positive way, it's given me time to get to know the lads, the staff and Newcastle as a city a bit more. I have got my house sorted, so I will be settled there in a few weeks.
"But I didn't want to be banned and sitting in the stands. I was just delighted to be back out there.
"At times, I was huffing and puffing, which is always the case when you have missed games.
"You can work as hard as you like in training, but there's nothing that can help you regain match fitness apart from matches.
"You have to be out there, so it was great to get a game under my belt."There are a few aches and pains, but for me they are good aches and pains because it means I'm playing again."
Nolan's return, as well as those of Habib Beye and Michael Owen from injury, could prove timely for the Magpies, whose top-flight status is under real threat for the first time since they returned in 1993. They have eight games in which to save themselves, and with Chelsea due at St James' Park after the international break, no-one is under any illusion as to the task at hand.
Nolan, of course, is a veteran of several survival fights with Bolton, and knows the importance of cool heads in difficult circumstances. He said: "What we have to do when we don't pick up points is not get too down about it."The next game is always around the corner. We can't mope around - we have got to turn the corner."