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Two years after his first game in management, Kevin Nolan is showing why his Leyton Orient ‘demotion’ was a huge mistake

PUBLISHED: 12:00 23 January 2018

Kevin Nolan looks on from the dugout during Leyton Orient's match at Wycombe Wanderers on January 23 2016 - his first in management (pic: Simon O'Connor).

Kevin Nolan looks on from the dugout during Leyton Orient's match at Wycombe Wanderers on January 23 2016 - his first in management (pic: Simon O'Connor).

Simon O'Connor Photography

Ex-West Ham United captain Kevin Nolan has taken Notts County from League Two relegation strugglers to title challengers in the space of 12 months

Jay Simpson (left), Jobi McAnuff (centre) and Bradley Pritchard celebrate Simpson's goal for Leyton Orient at Wycombe Wanderers on January 23 2016 (pic: Simon O'Connor). Jay Simpson (left), Jobi McAnuff (centre) and Bradley Pritchard celebrate Simpson's goal for Leyton Orient at Wycombe Wanderers on January 23 2016 (pic: Simon O'Connor).

Two years ago today Leyton Orient went away to League Two play-off rivals Wycombe Wanderers and claimed an excellent 2-0 victory which was meant to be the start of a new era at Brisbane Road.

Kevin Nolan, the former West Ham United captain, took charge of the O’s for the first time that day after being appointed player-manager of the east Londoners on January 21 2016.

Excitement was rife in E10 with the experienced midfielder bringing a feel-good factor back to Orient after a mixed couple of weeks.

Less than three months later and Nolan was told he “should focus entirely on his playing contribution until the end of the season” and that he “will be able to make a bigger impact on the team without the distraction of managerial duties.”

Former owner Francesco Becchetti made a lot of mistakes during his three-year spell in Leyton, but the aforementioned decision is up there with the worst of his calls.

Everything was not going perfectly for Nolan on the pitch in April, Orient had lost three of their past four games, which saw the club fall to 11th in the table, though only two points off of seventh-place.

Yet, instead of letting a young manager ride out an expected storm, Becchetti did what he does best – he got involved – and in the process he robbed O’s fans of the chance to watch a hungry, ambitious boss make his way in the game.

Jay Simpson celebrates scoring for Leyton Orient at Wycombe Wanderers on January 23 2016 by doing Kevin Nolan's chicken dance (pic: Simon O'Connor). Jay Simpson celebrates scoring for Leyton Orient at Wycombe Wanderers on January 23 2016 by doing Kevin Nolan's chicken dance (pic: Simon O'Connor).

There is no doubt in my mind Nolan would have been a huge success at Orient. He had a charm and a charisma which would have attracted excellent players to the club and given the club the right type of media attention.

He had the tools too having worked with so many managers during his playing career and he had a vision for O’s.

The youth-team coaches at Brisbane Road were excited to see what Nolan could do with the abundance of talent developing in the E10 academy.

Nolan had taken a genuine interest in the teenagers progressing at Orient and many more would have made their way into the first-team, in time, had he been allowed to continue managing at the club.

But the board at O’s decided they wanted the ex-Bolton Wanderers midfielder to focus on playing, even though the only reason he signed a contract with the then-League Two side was because he wanted to manage.

You can’t deny the fact Nolan made mistakes, he perhaps played himself too much, but given time and a summer transfer window, he would have put together a squad ready to take Orient back to League One.

I was confident he would have done that when he eventually left the club by mutual consent in July 2016, but I am even more certain of it now.

Kevin Nolan is all smiles on the touchline at Wycombe Wanderers during his first match in charge of Leyton Orient on January 23 2016 (pic: Simon O'Connor). Kevin Nolan is all smiles on the touchline at Wycombe Wanderers during his first match in charge of Leyton Orient on January 23 2016 (pic: Simon O'Connor).

Why? Well, the proof is in the pudding with Nolan currently manager of Notts County, who are second in League Two.

The Magpies actually lost 2-1 at home to Exeter City last weekend, but it was their first league defeat at Meadow Lane this season.

Nolan took charge of County last January and he has transformed the club from a side battling relegation into a title challenger in the space of 12 months.

On Saturday Notts host Swansea City in the fourth round of the FA Cup and you can bet there will be a lot of media interest in the 35-year-old this week and a lot of the stories will give you the same answer.

Nolan is a manager on his way to the top and the frustrating aspect is the fact he wasn’t allowed the chance to do it with Orient.

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