It’s difficult to think of a time when there was no Mark Noble at the club.
But after this season we will all have to accept that Mr West Ham will no longer be a part of the playing staff at the Hammers.
He has been a wonderful servant for the club and as part of Blowing Bubbles’ long goodbye to our club captain, I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on Mark’s time at the club by picking out my top five memorable performances by Nobes.
Of course others will pick out certain other games but here is my take on my Mark Noble’s all time games.
I was there when Mark made his first team debut for the club way back in the League Cup in 2004 against Southend.
I remember arriving at the ground just before kick off having left work early to spend four long hours in the car.
My sanity was brought into question outside the ground when I told the story of my epic journey and the statement: ‘You’ve come all this way just to see Southend, you must be mad’ ringing in my ears.
Little did I know that I would see a player make his debut and be destined to be a fixture at the club for the next 17 years.
Can I say that I was impressed with Mark’s debut? Well, I would if I could remember it. Nor can I remember Mark’s league debut, a loss against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
And so neither of those games take one of my coveted five memorable games.
The first one though was against our bitter rivals of recent years, not Millwall, but Tottenham, a game which occurred during the Great Escape season.
During that game in March 2007, Mark actually scored his first Premier League goal for the Hammers, a game we lost in the dying minutes.
I will never forget a young Mark Noble with tears running down his face, having given his all, but with a fear that with this defeat our Premier League status would come to an end. We survived of course.
My next memorable game is for an odd reason, it was a game in which Mr Reliable scored his first penalty for the club.
The game occurred in August 2007 at Birmingham’s St Andrew’s. I was near the front of the stand and saw Craig Bellamy fouled in the penalty box and I naturally assumed the Welshman would take the penalty.
But up stepped a young Mark Noble to dispense the penalty passed the outstretched hands of the Blues’ ‘keeper.
Throughout the years Mark stepped to the spot time and time again, and it was a rarity if he ever missed one.
And that was true of my next memorable game, against Liverpool just a few months later and yes it was another penalty.
In a rare appearance by Freddie Ljungberg in a claret and blue shirt, a foul just before half time resulted in Mark scoring from the spot.
The second half was very much West Ham battening down the hatches with every Liverpool attack seemingly squashed by a Mark Noble challenge.
Mark, in his holding midfield position, was exemplary in that game which resulted in a rare win against Liverpool.
Fast forward to March 2018, a game that will forever remain infamous amongst West Ham supporters, a game which split fans’ views on our captain.
That game was against Burnley, a game we lost 3-0 amidst a very toxic atmosphere with repeated protests against the board.
It was a game some fans, this one included, felt that we lost as a result of those protests. The constant pitch invasions distracted from the game and Mark’s frustration exploded as he ended up grappling with a so-called supporter on the pitch.
Many saw this as something he should not have done but he was showing real passion and a desire to just get his job done.
I may have had a huge amount of sympathy for the protests against the board, after all I never wanted to leave the Boleyn, but I had come to watch a game of football, not a group of thugs trying to stop the game.
A controversial game to choose as one of my memorable games but it has to make my top five.
So what’s my final most memorable game? Well, it is not even a competitive game.
It has to be Mark’s testimonial game back in March 2016 when West Ham players past and present plus a few celebrity supporters turned out for the great man in what ended up being a great game to watch.
And the fans turned out for this one with a near capacity crowd of 36,000 in attendance. We will never forget Dean Ashton’s wonder goal or Adrian running the whole length of the pitch to score, and Rio playing his part by stepping out of the way to allow Mark to score.
And of course Dylan Tombides’ brother Taylor was also amongst the scorers on a fabulous day out at the Boleyn.
So there you have it, my five memorable Mark Noble games. I could have chosen that final game at the Boleyn under the lights when Mark led the team out on that wonderful night but that would have made six games, and that would have seemed odd.
No doubt you will have your own choices but I know there is one thing we will all agree on; There will never be a player again like Mark to wear the claret and blue.
With our last game of this coming season being away from home, I have a feeling that a week earlier on May 15, 2022 with just a few minutes to go the substitution board will go up with the number 16 displayed.
The whole London Stadium will stand and the game will be brought to a halt as Mark applauds us all one last time and I bet there won’t be a dry eye in the place.
I salute you Mark Noble, Mr West Ham.
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