Mark Noble deserves to be given an opportunity to show what he can do in England’s new-look, youthful and energetic squad under Roy Hodgson – that’s the view of ex-Hammer George Parris.
The 49-year-old, who was part of the 1986 team to finish third in the top flight of English football, believes Noble’s consistent performances over the past two seasons in the Premier League should have been enough to warrant his inclusion in Hodgson’s squad this month.
‘Mark Noble is good enough to get into the England squad under Roy Hodgson without a doubt,” he told Blowing Bubbles in an exclusive interview. “His performances over the past couple of seasons, in my opinion, deserve a call up, especially when you look at the other England players who were called up this month. ‘Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he should be starting for England but certainly as a player who has represented England at every other level, I still believe he can break into the squad. He has been West Ham’s most consistent player for a long time and I’m not sure what else he can do to force his way into Hodgson’s thinking other than keep working hard and doing what he does best.
‘Sure he hasn’t got as much European experience as some of the players in the squad but he has been outperforming many in that squad over the past year. The England set-up has changed under Hodgson and you’ve got to hope that if he keeps plugging away, then surely he will get a call up.”
As for whether or not Noble might be better switching allegiances to the Republic of Ireland, George said he understood why the midfielder has displayed a reluctance to make the leap of faith required to end his hopes of a callup for England. ‘Only he knows whether or not he should opt to play for Ireland,” he continued. “He might get to the stage where he feels that he just wants to play international football and doesn’t mind which country he represents or he might always be fixed on playing for England only.
‘Either way, it’s a big decision for him but I’m sure if he just keeps playing well, he will get his chance with England. Don’t forget he is still only 27 so he has plenty of years left of playing at the top level.” The technical director at Brighton & Hove Albion’s girls’ centre of excellence has also been impressed with the signings West Ham have made this season – picking out Cresswell and Valencia as two players which have impressed him.
‘On paper the signings West Ham made this summer look very good,’ he said. ‘Some of them, like Aaron Cresswell, have already bedded in quickly which is tough when you arrive at a new club. Although we haven’t seen him start a game or impress hugely from coming off the bench, I’m looking forward to seeing more of Enner Valencia in a West Ham shirt this season. He did really well at the World Cup and really impressed me with his performances, which I hope he will be able to start replicating for West Ham.
‘I also think the signing of Alex Song is a brilliant bit of business for West Ham. Overall, I think all our summer signings will have a positive contribution to our campaign.” As for the club’s results to date, he added: “I felt during the Spurs game that a draw would have been a fair result for both teams. The penalty miss by Noble was a huge moment in the game because he just doesn’t miss penalties and to concede so late on was disappointing but the lads picked themselves up and put in a brilliant performance against Palace.
‘The Southampton game, although hugely disappointing, was really a game of two halves. Had we gone into the dressing room at half time in the lead, I think we would have kicked on in the second half but conceding just before the whistle blew, gave the impetus to Southampton and they took full advantage.’ Having racked up more than 200 appearances for the club it is clear that the Hammers are still very much part of Parris’s heart.
Indeed, the versatile former player looks back at his days at Upton Park with a huge amount of fondness. ‘I played in various positions during my time at West Ham and while some people might argue that was because I wasn’t good enough to play one position, I would argue I was good enough to play different positions and it also helped me to play as many games as I did for West Ham.
‘We might not have won any silverware when I was at West Ham but I was part of John Lyall’s side who finished third in the League in 1986, which is still held in high regard today. ‘Looking back at that season now, we didn’t get off to a brilliant start and we struggled during our first few games. ‘It looked like it was going to be another long season and we even had a players meeting to sort out one or two issues between ourselves but we knew we had a really good group of players and it was onwards and upwards from there.
‘Towards the end of the season, which we won something like 11 of our last 14 games, we would walk onto the pitch knowing that we were going to win. Sure there would be some games where we would fall behind but we knew that if we just got ourselves back into it, we would be able to kick on and take the points. I’m still hopeful that another West Ham side can match our achievements from that year but with the amount of money now needed to even challenge for a top four place, it might be some time before we see another top three finish again.’
Yet despite his role as one of the ‘Boys of ’86’ Parris is often remembered by West Ham fans for what happened in a game against Arsenal in March 1992. After suffering a knee injury against Aston Villa on Boxing Day in 1991, his first game back was against the Gunners when he came off the bench but he collapsed shortly after and didn’t play for West Ham until the opening game of the following season.
‘When I started training again following my operation, I was getting a pain in my chest when I started training,’ he recalled. ‘It would only last six or seven seconds and then disappear so I just assumed it was associated with me getting back my fitness but really that should have got the alarm bells ringing.
‘Then I came on against Arsenal, I can remember the adrenaline was pumping and I felt OK. I was doing all right for my first game back but then I was running and I can remember thinking that I was running too fast so I slowed down and it was then that I collapsed. ‘I can’t remember if the ball had run out of play or whether someone had kicked it out because they’d seen me collapse with no-one around me but the next thing I can remember is the physio coming over and asking me the usual questions like what day of the week is it, what the score was, etc.
‘I answered all of them correctly but my speech was slurred so I was taken off. ‘That evening I went to hospital for checks and it then materialised I had a problem with my artery. It was a huge shock and I was out for the rest of that season.’