Hands up who saw that one coming? It was common knowledge that negotiations between Kevin Nolan and Newcastle over a new contract had stalled and West Ham were interested, but very few believed that he’d consider a Championship return.
However, the breaking news on Wednesday afternoon is that West Ham have agreed an undisclosed fee with the Magpies and that he has made his way to east London for a medical, with the prospect of a reunion with Sam Allardyce seemingly tempting him.
The absence of any known Premier League suitors is something of a surprise given how integral the midfielder was to their relatively successful top-flight return, netting a dozen goals, and the 11/2 Championship favourites look set to benefit.
But even bigger than that transfer which has the potential to be the most surprising of the summer so far is the disillusioned reaction of his team-mate Joey Barton, who is also in contract limbo at St James’ Park, on social networking site Twitter.
Barton responded to the developing situation by posting: “Great player, leader, captain, person, trainer and mostly a friend for life. Devastated to see him SOLD! #mejoseandjonasnext”
The players that he referred to in the hash tag at the end are Liverpool target Jose Enrique and Jonas Gutierrez, the implication obviously being that he suspects Newcastle of lacking ambition and trying to cash in on their star men.
It could of course be that Alan Pardew, in his first pre-season as manager on Tyneside is carrying out a complete overhaul of his squad, to which end selling Nolan to West Ham could boost his chances of signing Demba Ba, though it doesn’t look that way.
Andy Carroll was sold to Liverpool for £35 million in January so there should be funds for adding to the team, and instead the failure to tie settled players like Barton and Nolan to fresh deals indicates that Mike Ashley wants to cut costs.
Such a policy carries a real risk of backfiring, so there are sure to be some takers on the tempting price of 5/1 that the Magpies suffer a second relegation in four years next season.