Mark Noble has been one of the biggest West Ham talking points of the season. Should he still be a part of the team, or has the time come to say thanks for everything but we are moving on? It’s not an easy one because too often we get the man mixed up with the player, which is a situation we have become familiar with our captain and it complicates our thinking.
In many respects the two subjects are related because you do wonder whether another manager would have rested Mark by now, or persisted in playing Cheikhou Kouyate out of position at right back? I believe Mark would have been dropped with Sam Byram given his chance in the role he was bought for and Kouyate taking up his best position in the middle of the park, which is clearly his most effective position. My view since the beginning of the season has been that Mark’s day is done.
He’s never been the quickest across the ground but this season he’s got slower and the amount of sideways and backwards passing he’s involved in slows everything down. He has had a fabulous career and is a wonderful club man. We all have enormous respect for him but we all come to an end of our career and I believe Mark’s time has come.
When he tried to explain his position on TV and said that some fans didn’t understand the game, that was a step too far. It shouldn’t have been said. You can’t talk about fans like that because apart from anything else many of them do. I think Mark knows his position may be vulnerable and sadly didn’t choose his words too carefully. I’m sure he’ll be regretting it.
It’s always best to look forward rather than back at this time of the season but I can’t help reviewing some of the stuff that’s happened this season, and I have to say whilst I never played with him, Slav comes across as a magnificent man. We all have huge respect for him and I love his passion. He lives and breathes West Ham and that’s good. But there have been issues and in the end, it always comes back to the manager.
He’s the one who takes the flak and it’s how it should be. One thing I really can’t get is his desire to regularly play of people out of their position. We return to the right back issue where at one time we were being told: ‘Michail Antonio is the answer — the best right back in the club.’ Th is is the same Antonio who is now playing in the Diafra Sakho position!
By and large, playing individuals out of position is done in emergency injury situations, not as a regular plan and I really don’t get it. It makes little sense to me and I wish Slav would stop it. Finally, I see questions were raised about the training methods that may or may not be being used. It’s not an easy one to discuss as the routines involved are kept very much between the training ground staff and players.
But watching the team in various matches it’s clear we don’t always see games out. Whether that’s to do with a lack of fitness or mental attitude is a vexed question although I tend to sway towards the fitness issue.
Phil Parkes was talking to ClaretandHugh’s founding editor Hugh Southon