Mark Noble’s contract was extended to the end of the 2021/22 season this week. It was due to expire at the end of the season with the much loved Hammers skipper having been at the club for 21 years since joining aged 12.
Canning Town born Mr West Ham has well and truly been replaced in the starting XI by superstar pair Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek.
The on-field change has been a long time coming and even Noble has been calling for it for some time.
After the FA Cup home defeat to West Brom last season, Noble was brought off the bench in an attempt to salvage the game and he admitted: ‘I’m 33 in May. I’ve been doing this half my life. At a club at this level with the money we’ve spent you can’t rely on me to come on at half-time in an FA Cup game – it shouldn’t be like that.’
Noble was right of course, we should have signed a better centre-midfielder years ago. But it’s his off-field contributions that will be almost impossible to replace.
He has been Rice’s personal tutor on ‘how to become a proper captain’. And his popularity among the players is hard to quantify but there for all to see.
Noble maintains training standards, makes new players welcome and reminds the squad what West Ham means to its fans and what an honour it should be to them to play for those supporters.
Of course he had opportunities to leave but never to much bigger clubs or for too much more money.
But nonetheless, Noble will leave a hero on five hundred and something games for West Ham – a feat I doubt we’ll ever see again.
And he should rightly be remembered as a legend and should be given the send off his loyalty and service deserves in front of 60,000 Hammers at London Stadium.
Noble has been offered another year and rightfully so. As West Ham legend Tony Cottee told our We Are West Ham podcast last month “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Cottee said: ‘You can’t give him a send off with no fans. That would be absolutely ridiculous. I know the club has made some poor decisions over the years – I can think of quite a few where they have not really done the right thing.
‘But in the case of Mark Noble, you’ve got to make an exception. I don’t think he should get a year as a token gesture, I think he should get a year for his input to the football club.
‘What fans won’t always appreciate – particularly nowadays and more so than when I was playing – the captain is a huge part of what goes on in the dressing room.
‘It’s not just about what you do on the field. The fans see what you do on the pitch but they don’t see what you’re doing behind the scenes – organising stuff for the boys, organising the community aspect of things.
‘That doesn’t always get appreciated and Nobes plays a massive part in what goes on off the field as well as what happens on it.
‘You see the respect he’s got as soon as he comes on – Dec can’t wait to get the armband off and give it to him.
‘I know David Moyes thinks an awful lot of Noble and I don’t think he would allow a situation where he is allowed to leave or go and play elsewhere without getting the send off he deserves.
‘If it’s about money, why not give Nobes a smaller basic salary and a huge bonus every time he goes on the field?
‘Doesn’t matter if it’s two minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes, who cares. At least he’s earned his money rather than give someone a year’s contract getting big money and not playing.
‘I still think he’s got a lot to bring to the table. He has to stay at the football club.
‘The one thing I detest about football is when clubs don’t look after their players who come through the system.
‘There’s been too many examples. I can think of three off the top of my head – Steven Gerrard at Liverpool, John Terry at Chelsea and Mark Noble at West Ham.
‘Those players should still be at their football clubs, they should still be involved. Whether that’s coaching or as an ambassador, whatever the player wants to do.
‘Not everyone wants to be a manager or a coach or go into the media so just have them as an ambassador.
‘Mark Noble might retire but he’ll go to every game. A bit like what Ledley King did at Tottenham and now look at him on the coaching staff.
‘I think Nobes has to stay at the football club, give him another year’s contract, work out the money and what that means to the club. But keep him involved.
‘He’s a huge presence in that dressing room. Huge. And we need him to stay because – as we all hope we’re going to be in Europe next year – you need a captain and a leader to help you get around Europe and navigate all the issues that will come in that campaign. He has to stay 100 per cent.’
Rice is quickly becoming one of the finest holding midfielders in Europe as well as emerging as a natural leader in the squad and perfect club captain material.
Noble has been a huge part of his development and wouldn’t it just be the perfect ending to see the captaincy baton officially passed on at the end of a successful European campaign?
Cottee added: ‘Don’t forget that Dec – having joined the club at 14 – from that moment he would have seen the captain of the football club was Noble.
‘We’re going back seven years now but when you come through the academy yourself and a young kid comes through you feel an attachment with these players and want to guide and help them.
‘I had it myself as a few years after I got in the first team Steve Potts, Stuart Slater and Paul Ince came through. And you do whatever you can to make it easier for them on and off the pitch.
‘So Dec would have the utmost respect for Noble, and Dec will want him to stay and I think all the other players will as well.
‘You need that team spirit, that local lad and that leader. Yes the armband is going to get passed on, we all know that.
‘Dec is our captain on the field at the moment and going forward we all hope he is there as captain for the next 10 or 15 years because that will mean we’ve won things and are doing things as a football club.
‘We need to keep Dec and there’s probably an argument that keeping Nobes is going to help keep Dec because you want them to be happy. You want your captain to be playing games.
‘I heard Dec on the radio recently and he said we’ve got a chance at getting in the Champions League.
‘If you want to keep Declan Rice there’s only two ways of doing that and it isn’t money, it’s winning something or playing in Europe.
‘They are the two reasons I left the football club and that’s been going on with other players who have left to go and try and win things elsewhere. That’s what we’ve got to try and do with Dec, win something or qualify for Europe.
‘Even if we qualify for the Europa League, there’s more chance of Declan staying because of that than if you don’t get in the Europa League.
‘So let’s hope we qualify for Europe, keep Nobes at the football club and bring it all together.
‘Why change it? That would be my argument, nothing is broken so don’t change it. Don’t try and get rid of people.
‘Just keep it as it is, let the manager slowly tick over and if there’s a couple of bits of dead wood, move them on and bring in players who want to play for the football club.’