FC Gifu’s longest serving player signed a new contract extension which means he will play his eighth season at Gifu in 2016. He has outlasted several managers, has played in nearly every position on the pitch, and regularly tries his luck from 35 yards out…..and has yet to hit the target. He is a cult hero with the supporters, and is part of the fabric at the Nagaragawa Memorial Center. But who is Shun Nogaito?
Shun Nogaito is many things; Left full back, right full back, holding midfielder, wing back. The position changes, but the effort doesn’t. He always (and this sounds like a cliche) gives 100% regardless of the game situation. His wholehearted effort is what endears him to the FC Gifu support.
Nogaito joined Gifu straight out of Yokkaichi University in his native Mie prefecture and while he didn’t make an impact straight away, he slowly edged himself into the squad and became an integral part of it.
His versatility is a double edged sword. On the one hand it means that he is very valuable as someone who can cover when injuries/suspensions take their toll (especially during the long & arduous J2 season). But on the other it means that it is difficult for him to hold down a regular place in the team because he is the first person to be called upon to cover. I think that is the reason that he hasn’t made as many appearances as someone who has played seven full seasons in J2 probably should have done. This year, however, will see him make his 200th appearance for the club – and in these days of free agents and transient players, making 200 appearances for the same club is quite a rare feat.
He seems to be involved most when he occupies one of the full back positions. In the last two years, it seems to have been down the left hand side where he has been utilized. In 2014 it was often as cover for Alex Santos, but in 2015 he played in most of the games in the second half of the season.
He has a lot of energy, and that has good and bad points. Good because he doesn’t seem to tire and he can get up and down the flanks to support those further forward. The downside is that his energy and enthusiasm sometimes override the caution switch in the brain and that leads to him being out of position, whether that be too far forward after having joined an attack, or being caught too far infield thus leaving the wing exposed. His crossing has improved a lot in the past couple of years, and it is noticeable that Ramos wants his full backs/wide players to have a good delivery on them (we can also see the progress that Masanori Abe, the right back, has made in this area).
What does 2016 hold for Nogaito? If he stays fit, he’ll break the 200 barrier, but there is suddenly quite a bit of competition for the full back roles. Gifu have just this week brought in youngster Go Iwase from Kyoto who is a natural left back, whilst Yuki Fuji is still there and universtiy graduate Jun Suzuki will also look to stake a claim. On the right, Masanori Abe seems to be the front runner, but he started life as a central defender and I wonder if Ramos sees him moving back there to partner Naoya Okane. Tsukasa Masuyama also sometimes plays at right back, but I feel he is better suited to a position further forward where he utilize his excellent range of passing and crossing, so it might be that right back is where Nogaito places his marker this year.
Wherever he does play, he can be sure that all FC Gifu supporters are behind him. Yes, we may groan when he inexplicably finds himself in the centre of midfield when the side of the pitch is wide open. And yes, we will probably groan when he tries his customary 35 yarder that goes high over the crossbar. But he is one of us. Someone who predates my own involvement with FC Gifu, and someone who, when the chips are down (as they often have been during his time at Gifu), you can count on him to give his all and leave nothing left on the field.
This is his eighth year. And hopefully many more after this. Shun Nogaito, I salute you.