Few players have enjoyed such a fine start to the 2017/18 campaign as Newport County’s Frank Nouble.
Arriving at the south Wales club this summer after being released by Southend United, Nouble picked up the League Two Player of the Month award for August, scoring five goals and registering an assist in his first four matches for the South Wales outfit.
However, the striker insisted that the team aspect was most important as he played down the award, saying:
“It’s brilliant, we’ve had a great start. As a club we had a great start, we kept the momentum going from last season after a great second half of the season with a few new signings including myself. The goals really helped me to win the award.”
Having come through the ranks at Chelsea before moving to West Ham United, it would be fair to say that life hasn’t been easy for Frank Nouble since he left the Hammers in 2012. After six different loan spells and a disappointing spell at Wolves, the forward knew that he had to rebuild his career. He admitted:
“I’ve been so many places and people tend to think that I’m older than I am, but I’ve gained experience and now I’m using that here which is important here as we’re a young group and I’m one of the oldest in the team and I’m only 26-years-old.”
At Ipswich Town, Nouble enjoyed what he describes as the best spell of his career. Playing regular first team football for the first time, he missed only eight league games in his second season at Portman Road. At Championship level, Nouble’s side twice came close to promotion as they pushed for the play-offs but failed to make that final step. He said:
“It was the most enjoyable spell, with Mick McCarthy he was a great manager for me. He said it how it is and everyone appreciates a manager like that.”
It came as something of a surprise when he then moved on to Coventry, but his next move proved to be even more surprising as he became one of the first players to move from England to China, joining Tianjin Quanjian.
The Chinese side now boast the likes of former Chelsea and AC Milan striker Alexandre Pato and Belgian international Axel Witsel, with World Cup winning defender Fabio Cannavaro in charge in the dugout, but only two years ago it was Nouble who they were relying on for goals. Discussing his time there, the 25-year-old explained:
“It was totally different having come through the academy in England. Only three foreign players can play at one time so it was different. There were a lot of ups and downs but I enjoyed it, I’m glad I experienced it and it taught me a lot. They said that I was the first one to come over there, which is something in itself.”
Disappointing spells at Gillingham and Southend followed, playing just 51 minutes of football in his half a season at Roots Hall. Now, the 26-year-old has chosen what he believes to be the perfect destination, working under Michael Flynn at Rodney Parade. After a brilliant start, Nouble already feels comfortable with life in South Wales:
“Most places I’ve been to I have settled, but haven’t been given the chance that I’ve been given here by the manager. He’s given me free reigns and a leadership role in the team which I think I’ve taken on really well, so long may that continue. It feels like home so far.”
A lot of that is down to his new coach Flynn. Having been appointed last season and saved the club from relegation, the former player and local boy has turned his club into play-off contenders. Nouble was keen to emphasize the importance of the manager in his form, saying:
“Michael Flynn has been brilliant. Having been a player so recently he knows what it’s like to be at a League 2 club and to have the quality to step up, he’d be one of the stand out coaches in my career with Gianfranco Zola and Brendan Rodgers.”
Discussing his targets for the season, Nouble explained that he’s aiming for at least 20 goals, and showed that despite the setbacks in his career to date, he is not short of confidence:
“I want to be in the top seven and with a chance in the play-offs, I don’t think there’s anyone that we should be afraid of in this league. I’ve set myself a target of 20 goals, some people don’t like to say their target but I don’t agree with that.”
Long-term, the centre forward still has lofty ambitions. Having begun his career in the top flight and worked his way down, he insists that he still has the ability to return to the very top. Backed by his coach, who described him as “a Premier League player in the making”, Nouble feels that the door may still be open to him:
“Everyone wants to play in the Premier League, I still want to get back there. I’ve still got a lot of qualities that I’m working on, but you can’t do that if you’re not playing and before I haven’t played as much as I should have. The manager has taken a punt on me and I’m playing so the sky is the limit.”
For now though, Nouble will have his eyes set on a successful League 2 campaign with Newport County as the Exiles seek to turn their superb start into a promotion campaign to take the Welsh club to their highest position since 1987 when they were relegated from the third tier before being reformed in 1989.