Mark Noble says all he can do is continue to give 100 per cent in every single West Ham match amid criticism of his form. The Hammers’ skipper has been singled out by a section of the club’s support for his performances this season but has vowed to continue to work hard to turn things around.
‘I’ve always tried to lead by example, as in play at 100 per cent and give everything,’ he said. ‘I don’t care what anyone says, no one is going to be a 10 out of 10 every game. ‘You’re going to have bad games throughout the season but if you work hard, West Ham fans will let you off if you give 100 per cent.’ Noble, who has twice won Hammer of the Year and was hailed for his form during the final season at Upton Park, has struggled for consistency since the move to London Stadium but he is confident things will get better as long as he continues to work hard in training.
‘Whenever we sign players I tell them to just give everything,’ he added. ‘If you give everything you’ll be fine and stuff will come to you, but if you don’t, they’ll find you out quick.’ West Ham’s maiden season in Stratford has not panned out how many fans had hoped prior to the campaign and were still not mathematically safe heading into May.
Perhaps the lowest moment of the season was Dimitri Payet’s departure in the January transfer window. Th e Frenchman effectively threatened to strike to force through a move back to Marseille and Noble admits the situation affected the dressing room. ‘Obviously with the Dimitri situation I talked with the likes of [Manuel] Lanzini and said they needed to step up, as we were not going to have our best player on the pitch. I’m certainly not taking credit, but I’ve seen a different player in Manu for sure.’
West Ham have had some fearsome captains over the years, with the likes of Billy Bonds and Julian Dicks famous for ruling the dressing room. However, while Noble says he will pull rank if required, the current skipper admits he prefers a quiet word to ranting and raving.
When you play with the boys there are some characters that you couldn’t have a go at during half time because they’d go into a shell. Everyone’s got feelings and sometimes, especially me, you can’t help showing them.
‘If I don’t think someone is pulling their weight, I’ll tell them during the game or at half time, but sometimes you have to be clever because some players don’t respond well to being shouted at. You come over and say “come on geezer, we need you today, you’re important for us”. A bit of one-onone. ‘Leadership for me, and what I’ve done all my career, is training and playing to my absolute maximum. I’d never come in and think I just don’t fancy it today, or if I have felt like that, I’ll tell myself I’m going to have a go today.
‘Even if I just run about and make a tackle and try to get the lads going, because there are a lot of times you come into training and think the intensity isn’t up to scratch. A few of the lads might have been out or we might have had a hard game. So normally I pick on somebody who I know is going to have a go back.’
Unlike last season, when the Hammers were flying-high in the Premier League table, stories of dressing room discontent have leaked into the national media.
But Noble says the reality has often been very different from what has been presented in the press and insists the team are united and fully behind Irons’ boss Slaven Bilic.
‘If you had journalists that weren’t always looking for a story or to stitch you up then we’d say travel with us,’ he added. ‘They’d get to know people instead of the robots they see on TV. ‘A lot of players do really care. They don’t want to lose. We saw the young lads at the Euros this year, obviously we were all disappointed but I know them and can tell you they don’t ever want to lose.
‘I know it’s a totally different culture but you look at Brazilian players that turn up for a game. They’re so relaxed, have a sing-song and take that onto the pitch with them. They just seem free. It’s fun for them. You watch them, watch Ronaldinho and he just seemed like he was having a laugh.’
This month represents the 10th anniversary of West Ham’s Carlos Tevez-inspired escape. It’s testament to the longevity of Noble’s career that he played a big role in the survival charge and the Canning Town-born skipper looks back fondly at that dramatic period in the club’s history.
‘2007 was a mad year for me because I was playing for West Ham and people kept saying if I kept playing well, I could get into the Under-21s Euros squad. You know when you look at someone like they’re mad, but I got the call one day and was invited into a training camp in Valencia. ‘I’ll never forget it. I turned up and was so nervous because there were players who were established players in the Premier League.
‘To be really honest with you, I laid in my room and thought I’m just going to use this as experience. ‘But I knew deep down in my head I could hold my own, because I’d been playing in the Premier League and I thought if I trained well I might have a chance.’ Hard work and determination soon paid off.
‘In that four day training camp I think it’s the best I’ve ever trained. It’s adrenaline that helps you. You leave the training camp and then you get a letter. I got the letter and I was in the squad. I was buzzing.’ This work ethic is the same as Noble expects from those coming into the West Ham team, with it looking likely there will be numerous new signings come the summer transfer window.
For many years West Ham fans scratched their heads as Noble was overlooked for full international honours, despite the likes of Danny Drinkwater and Tom Cleverley getting call-ups. Yet Noble did have the chance to play international football with the Republic of Ireland pitching for him to represent them.
‘My Nan and Grandad are fully Irish,’ Noble explained. ‘When I played for the Under 15s to the Under 21’s I knew how much it meant to me to play for England. ‘I love Irish people and half my family are Irish but for me personally I always dreamed of playing for England.
‘As a kid I played all the age groups and went to tournaments and sang the national anthem every time I played. So for me to turn up to play for Ireland, it wasn’t a dream of mine and there’s an Irish kid out there that might miss a place because I go and it’s their dream to play for Ireland.
Noble turns 30 this month, a landmark where a footballer can be considered as a veteran, but he says he still holds dear a piece of advice from Teddy Sheringham more than a decade ago. ‘Teddy said to me, and I’ll never forget this, “when you’re enjoying it and when it’s going well, enjoy it because it’s not often it goes well”.
‘That’s from someone who played in the Champions League, played for United and scored many goals in his career and he probably felt the way a lot of players do, that you can’t really enjoy it until Saturday afternoon is over and you’ve won.
‘Until then, the week leading up to the game you just think “I have to win”, and for me, it becomes a bit obsessive. I’ll be out on a Wednesday night with Carly sitting over dinner and all you can think is that we’ve got to win on Saturday. Then you have Sunday off and it starts again Monday.
It’s a mantra West Ham fans should be able to relate to, and in this day and age the cycle of highs and lows becomes ever more extreme. But there is every reason why Noble gets it. He’s one of our own. Fans should remember that before they get on his back after a poor run of games.