Kevin Nolan

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Free agents: Flamini to Crystal Palace? Chamakh, Sissoko trial with WBA

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With the transfer window closed, Premier League teams have turned to out-of-contract players for their squads.

There are plenty of rumored deals out there and we’ll delve into them here as well as give you some names to monitor moving forward.

[ MORE: Yaya out of City’s UCL roster ]

Victor Anichebe has already been scooped up by Sunderland, and Marouane Chamakh and Mohamed Sissoko are on trial at West Bromwich Albion today, where the Baggies face the Indian Super League’s Delhi Dynamos.

The Guardian claims that Crystal Palace could land longtime Arsenal man Mathieu Flamini, though the Frenchman is wanted by a number of teams across Europe.

Among the other recognizable and available Premier League names are Stephane Sessegnon, Charles N'Zogbia, Kevin Nolan, Bobby Zamora, Leon Osman, and Junior Hoilett.

Longtime Juventus man Martin Caceres is 29 and was expected to sign with AS Roma once rehabilitated from an achilles injury, but has yet to make anything official. We’re only mentioning the slight possibility because, when healthy, he’s quite good.

Not a lot to love there for those looking for help.

Benitez stay is huge, but Newcastle cannot be content with players

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As posted yesterday, Rafa Benitez met with the media after Newcastle United confirmed that the trophy-winning manager has decided to stay with the club despite relegation, and said this is his ship now.

This is huge news for the Magpies.

The 56-year-old Spaniard couldn’t rescue the sinking ship he inherited from Steve McClaren, and is tasked with lifting Newcastle back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

[ USMNT-ECUADOR: Match recap | Player ratings | 3 things ]

For years, Newcastle’s managers have been subject to the approval of chief scouts, managing directors and owner Mike Ashley. What Benitez has now is assurances that no player is being sold without his permission, and none being bought without his approval. Which means no midseason sales of Yohan Cabaye because the iron is hot, or unrequested purchases like Xisco.

Of course that could mean we’re headed for a huge August or January bust-up when Ashley or Lee Charnley pulls the rug out from some big acquisition that could firm up Newcastle’s standing in the top flight, but we’ll stay on the sunny side for now and assume Benitez’s people made that part of his contact air tight.

It means Newcastle could line up, basically, the same as last season. There are plusses and minuses to that, of course, as the club was relegated thanks to woeful form and players who were perhaps rightfully accused of only showing up for primetime matches.

Consider:

— Newcastle took as many points from Manchester United (2) as Aston Villa.

— The Magpies went 2-0 against Tottenham Hotspur, grabbed four points from Liverpool, beat West Ham and drew both Manchester City and Chelsea.

— They also lost to relegation rivals Norwich, drew Sunderland twice and were swept by Watford.

So while Benitez holds sway to keep Moussa Sissoko, Georginio Wijnaldum and Daryl Janmaat despite the big money they could command on the open market, he has to be 100 percent sure they won’t mail it in.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Kevin Nolan of Newcastle United celebrates scoring the opening goal with team mate Andy Carroll (L) during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park on December 11, 2010 in Newcastle, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Carroll and Nolan (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

There’s no certainty there, and one of the main things that helped Newcastle bounce right back up to the PL in 2009-10 was a crew that got its footing in the Championship by Week 13 and never looked back: the Magpies lost just once in the league from Oct. 24 onward thanks in large part to heart-and-soul players who stuck around after the drop (Kevin Nolan, Jonas Gutierrez, Fabricio Coloccini, Andy Carroll and others).

Among those who fit the bill for understanding the task at hand are Andros Townsend, Jonjo Shelvey, Jack Colback, Chancel Mbemba and Coloccini. Others, like Sissoko and Siem De Jong, risk poisoning the well. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be kept around, but Benitez will need to know transfer rumor and agent hijinks aren’t in the offing.

Make no mistake about it, Benitez in control is better than anything the Magpies have had in ages and Newcastle is far more likely to replicate the instant promotions of West Ham and itself than the divisional drops of Leeds United and Portsmouth.

What now? Newcastle United after relegation

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There’s nothing good about this.

Newcastle United has no silver lining in its relegation cloud after sinking into the second tier for a second time.

There will be no awakening, no excuses that they were unlucky. There isn’t going to be a series of veterans lining up to stay and instantly guide the team back to the top flight, as proud players Kevin Nolan, Fabricio Coloccini, Jonas Gutierrez and Andy Carroll did in 2009-10.

[ MORE: Newcastle, Norwich relegated | NUFC director reacts ]

There was a bit of an exodus then, too: Obafemi Martins bailed out alongside Michael Owen, Sebastien Bassong and David Edgar. And surely Moussa Sissoko and Georginio Wijnaldum won’t risk international futures for France and Holland while playing in the championship. Daryl Janmaat, Ayoze Perez and Tim Krul will likely follow suit.

Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend showed great heart during the relegation battle, but will they be content to help the Magpies in the Championship. Chancel Mbemba and Aleksandar Mitrovic would be stars in the second tier, but will they be okay staying one year after arriving from a Champions League outfit?

The good news is that all of those players have some too much value on the transfer market, and Newcastle is a rich club.

[ MORE: Allardyce hails “difficult to beat” Sunderland ]

Much maligned owner Mike Ashley is almost certainly not selling the club at a loss. In the past he’s said that he’s “wedded” to the club for better or relegation. Well here’s the latter, and Ashley has had seven managers oversee 20 or more matches since buying the team in 2007. Their win percentages?

Sam Allardyce — 33 percent
Kevin Keegan — 29 percent
Joe Kinnear — 22 percent
Chris Hughton — 59 percent*
Alan Pardew — 38 percent
John Carver — 15 percent
Steve McClaren — 23 percent

*majority of games in Championship

Not too good. By comparison, some of the worst percentages amongst active PL bosses belong to Sam Allardyce (30 percent), Tony Pulis (33 percent) and Mark Hughes (38 percent). Only Pardew even comes close to flirting with those marks… and those are, again, among the worst.

Then, there’s the current manager: Rafa Benitez. He almost certainly is interested in executing his out-clause, and most of their pre-Benitez hires have been at-best yes men or long shots: Alan Pardew, John Carver, Steve McClaren, Joe Kinnear (!!)… these were not inspired hires. Lucking out with Chris Hughton over promotion in 2009-10 was another story altogether.

[ MORE: Norwich’s Neil calls relegation “severe disappointment” ]

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Youngsters Adam Armstrong and Ivan Toney were on loan this year, the Magpies played most of the season with a second or third string keeper after Tim Krul and then Rob Elliot were hurt, and really did have a poor run of injuries.

The Magpies have a good chance for instant promotion, though probably not the 102-point run they pulled in 2009-10. A lot of it hinges on having the right manager, whether Benitez surprisingly decides to stay or a new face is brought to Tyneside, and fans will have trouble trusting Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley with making the right choice.

Longtime Premier Leaguer Nolan takes player-manager role in League Two

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Ever see a manager flap his arms like a chicken?

Ever see one do it after scoring a goal?

[ MORE: USMNT’s Gooch goes on loan to League One side ]

Those are questions to which you may respond, “Yes”, in short order, as Leyton Orient has signed former Newcastle, West Ham and Bolton captain Kevin Nolan as player-manager.

It’s a two-and-a-half year deal for Nolan, who will guide the O’s in League Two. Orient is in 11th place, five points off the promotion playoff.

From leytonorient.com:

Kevin brings with him invaluable expertise and know how, with 17 years’ experience in high level football. A number of strong candidates were interviewed by the Chairman, but Kevin’s hunger, desire and passion to succeed at Leyton Orient, coupled with his experience, were key in the decision process and the Club believe they have the man to take Leyton Orient forward and improve the Club’s position.

Nolan is a physical player with strong leadership skills, and any drop-off in skill level will be mitigated by his three-tier drop in level of play.

Orient was relegated from League One last season, and Nolan takes over a club with Jamaican national teamer Jobi McAnuff and a fellow ex-Hammer in striker

West Ham United go big on Deadline Day, add Alex Song, Victor Moses, Nikica Jelavic

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West Ham United have gone big on Deadline Day as they made three early signings to jump ahead of the competition.

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Alex Song and Victor Moses arrived on loan from Barcelona and Chelsea respectively, while Nikica Jelavic joined on a two-year deal after a $5 million move from Hull City.

Slaven Bilic’s side have had a peculiar start to the new Premier League season, as they’ve beaten both Arsenal and Liverpool away from home but sandwiched in-between those famous victories have been two home defeats to Leicester City and Bournemouth.

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By bolstering his squad, new manager Bilic will be able to make an assault on the top half of the Premier League as the Hammers aim for success in their final season at Upton Park before their move to their new home at London’s Olympic Stadium for the 2016-17 season.

Song, 27, returns to the Hammers on loan for a second-straight season as the Cameroonian central midfielder impressed during the opening half of the campaign last year. His form faded as the season wore on and it looked like a return to east London was not going to happen this summer with the former Arsenal midfielder spending preseason with parent-club Barcelona. However another season-long loan move has been tied up and that gives Bilic options in midfield after Kevin Nolan‘s departure last week.

Perhaps the one area where West Ham really need to strengthen was in attack and they’ve done that by adding Moses, 24, on loan from Chelsea. The Nigerian winger has spent the last two season’s on loan at Liverpool and Stoke City and with Jose Mourinho unable to guarantee him minutes at Chelsea, but somewhat bizarrely handing him a new contract on Tuesday with wages in excess of $120,000 per week, it’s no surprise he’s moved to West Ham.

In terms of Jelavic’s move to West Ham, the 30-year-old striker will link up with his countryman Bilic and after an injury-hit season at Hull last year which was a big part in the Tigers being relegated, the Croatian international will look to get his PL career back on track as he’ll provide a physical presence up top.

There’s also a chance that Emmanuel Adebayor could arrive at Upton Park before the transfer deadline at 1 p.m. ET today. Watch this space.