Mark Noble is your quintessential West Ham United player. A man who is not necessarily the blessed with incredible footballing ability, but what he may lack in natural quality he makes up with heart, passion and hard work.
The Canning Town-born midfielder capped the end of his 15th season in claret and blue with a mazy run and finish and a typically cool, calm and collected penalty against Watford at Vicarage Road. At the end of every season, there seem to be question marks over the Hammers skipper’s ability to remain in and around Manuel Pellegrini’s first-team squad. You will regularly read on social media that ‘his legs are gone’ or ‘Noble is finished’.
I’ll hold my hands up and admit; I was one of those fans – who call for him to be dropped time and time again. However, he always seems to prove me and other doubters wrong. Without wanting to contradict myself, Noble is the heartbeat of the side and the key mentor to Declan Rice’s rapid development.
The number 16 will not let a day go by without being on the youngsters back, constantly reminding him to keep knuckling down. In an ideal world, I would imagine that Noble would see Rice as his natural successor, and that would complete what would be a wonderful fairy-tale story. The 32-year-old is an instantly likeable person and is a terrific person to have at the club, the ultimate been there done that character that just rubs off immediately on newcomers in the squad and the perfect role model for those younger players looking to make it big.
So even if Noble’s playing time may start to naturally begin to wind down, 15-years in the game is going to take its toll on the body, he will always continue to be a massive influence at the club. An academy role at the club is tailor-made for the experienced midfielder – he is someone who could follow in the footsteps of Jack Collison, Steve Potts and co. The young players coming through now make no secret of the importance of the West Ham captain, he naturally acts as the oracle of information for anyone looking to break through the academy.
That is not to say that his time on the pitch is over; he will have his own playing ambitions to achieve before he hangs up his boots. He is now (perhaps scarily) the clubs second all-time top Premier League goal-scorer, and you can bet he has his eyes on overtaking Paolo Di Canio before he retires. He will want to take West Ham to another cup final and lead them to their first ‘proper’ trophy since 1980, and of course, he will want to continue to help the future of West Ham develop.
He has enjoyed and perhaps at times endured the difficult moving in procedure at the London Stadium, few will forget the Burnley game where he had to play steward, something that for me he took a lot of unnecessary stick for. It seems ridiculous to suggest the after moving into a stadium three years ago, as we enter our fourth season in Stratford that the settling in period is still ongoing and Noble has had to front a lot of that up. It couldn’t have been easy for Noble to leave Upton Park either – he is at the end of the day, one of our own as well.
While I do believe Pellegrini will look to bring in a box-to-box midfielder alongside Rice meaning Noble’s playing time may become naturally less, there is no doubting that he will be in and around the side, not least because when he is in the team the Irons seems to play far better. His role may change, and he may have to adapt to play a more advanced role although if he continues to produce goals like the opener at Vicarage Road, he may have already nailed down that more advanced role next season.
He will be around for a couple more years yet – and I do hope he does too, he is a player that deserves to be a one-club man, and that will be an achievement in itself in this modern era should he achieve it.
He is a terrific character, and a brilliant club ambassador and captain. Mark Noble, in fairness to him, has won me back around every single season. There is a reason that every manager that has come in at the club has picked him in their starting XI – he is willing to do the dirty work that some ‘flair’ players aren’t and for that reason alone I believe he will continue to play a role at the club for years to come.