When you look back at Mark Noble’s career and time at West Ham, it says a lot about his temperament and his ability to adapt that he has managed to clock up 500 plus games under so many different managers.
When managers come in, they have their own ideas and it’s the players that have to adapt to him and I think it says so much for Mark that he’s had nine or 10 managers and still managed to play time and time again.
If I compare him to Frank McAvennie, Frank wouldn’t have been able to do what Mark has done. I think back to when Lou Macari came in and Frank had no respect for him, and I think that’s the difference with Mark, no matter the manager, the good and the bad, he’s done what they’ve asked of him.
What Mark has always brought to West Ham is a never-give-up attitude – the same that Bonzo had. And just like Bonzo, he has been an inspiration for others and always been good for West Ham.
He was never going to be in the same class as players like Luka Modric but he has always done the job needed for West Ham wherever he has played.
He has never let West Ham down and he never gives anything less than 100% and that goes a long way.
He has in the last few years brought stability when he is playing, he’s had an old head on his shoulders for a while.
The bottom line is you just don’t get players like Mark Noble anymore – certainly not in the Premier League.
You won’t get players staying at one club for any long period of time. It feels like players are lucky if they stay any more than a few seasons whereas the likes of Alvin Martin and Billy Bonds had 20 years at West Ham!
When you look back at his career, he has never been one to grab the headlines like Tony Cottee or Frank would – then again Frank got them for the wrong reasons too!
He has always gone about doing his job well and maybe some would say we’ve taken him for granted at times in his career.
I always felt his best position is similar to what Declan does for England right now – sat just in front of the back four and breaking up the play.
He was always good at that but I know some managers liked to play him in a more advanced role and people forget that he’s scored quite a few goals too – and not just penalties!
Already you can see the massive Mark Noble-shaped hole in our team when it comes to penalties.
We missed a few last season without him on the pitch and Antonio did against Newcastle – albeit Soucek scored after the ‘keeper’s save.
It is always difficult when you lose a player like Mark or Ray Stewart or Julian Dicks – players who you rely upon for years to score from 12 yards.
Suddenly they aren’t on the pitch and you’re wondering who is going to take the penalty. Mark was our go-to for such a long time, I do believe to score as consistently as he did is a skill in itself and now I feel like we’re lost without him in this area.
I’m sure Mark wants to get as many minutes as he can this season and will be enjoying every second he gets on the pitch. Fans will want to see as much of him as possible too.
I’m sure, by now, he is used to coming on for a few minutes towards the end of a game – like he did against Leicester.
With our Europa League campaign plus FA and League Cup games, I’m sure there are going to be plenty of games he’ll start unless we get knocked out of all of these at the first hurdle.
He is a big influence on and off the pitch, and I think his role off the pitch should not be underestimated.
Bonzo was a huge influence on us but he didn’t play in the 85-86 season as he had a foot injury. He was, however, always there at the training ground and at games. If anyone wanted to chat with him, he wanted to listen.
Players like Mark and Bonzo – just them being there – play such a big role in the club as a whole.
When I look back at the start of Mark’s career, he may have got into the side at an early age but it took him a few years to establish himself.
I can remember when he did start to get more games, I was doing the hospitality at Upton Park. We had Scott Parker at the time too and for me, at the time, they were too similar and that probably didn’t help him.
But he kept plugging away and it really does feel like he has been around forever – far longer than he actually has been.
He’s part of the fixtures and fittings for so long now that I was surprised they didn’t sell him off when they sold Upton Park!
To me, Noble is a West Ham legend with what he has done for the club.
He’s played over 500 games and you don’t play that many without having something about you.
It is going to be a very sad day when he does leave because he is Mr West Ham.
If he does decide to retire after leaving, I really think the club should give him a meaningful role like Director of Football and not just an ambassador role that doesn’t really work. It needs to be something to do with the footballing side, maybe even part of the coaching team.
But I know I’ve said this before in my column that I still think, even at 34, he’s got two or three years left in him and it’s too early to retire.
But it does come down to how much desire he has to keep playing football. Not at West Ham, and maybe not in the Premier League but there will be lower league clubs that would really want him.
There are players like Ronaldo who are a bit of an exception to the rule when it comes to players reaching a certain age and still being able to play at the top.
You really do need to be an exceptional player and Mark hasn’t got much pace left and has had to play more with his brain.
But Mark is still in great shape, he never carries any weight and if I were to speak to him, I’d be encouraging him to carry on playing.
There has never been any doubt about his desire or passion for West Ham. Given the chance he was, he was only ever going to be a one-man club.
Footballers are so well paid today that if they look after themselves, they really shouldn’t have to work again.
But what I would say is if he really wants to keep playing football that I still think he can do it.