On the way into Mark Noble’s final playing season in claret and blue, there were so many topics for the man himself to discuss. One thing Noble has brought up during questioning was his proudest achievement. While we might immediately think of certain moments such as play-off finals, the FA Cup final and multiple relegation escapes, Mark commented on his pride at his longevity whilst playing for so many managers at one club.
He told Sky Sports: ‘My biggest achievement is probably the games I’ve accumulated for West Ham under nine or ten different managers because I think people get the view that if you’re a homegrown player you play in the team, and that’s why I played, but there are hundreds of homegrown players that come through their teams and don’t quite make it.’
He went on to say that playing under different managers has meant adapting to various styles and cultures over the years. His versatility is what has led to his legacy of being a ‘one club man’. It was Alan Pardew who gave Nobes his debut in 2004 and ultimately led him to the Young Hammer of the Year award in that season.
At the time, we didn’t know how Mark would grow into the club. Looking back now, the player and the fans owe Pards a lot of credit for how Noble’s career panned out. He gave him enough football to settle himself into the first team, but he didn’t wear him out, allowing him to continue to thrive in the youth squad.
The second coach to manage Noble at West Ham was Alan Curbishley. During this time, he established himself as a regular in the team and picked up his goal scoring ability and penalty taking duties, which has been pivotal to his career. Under Gianfranco Zola, Mark felt like he was ‘rejuvenated’ and enjoyed playing football for him and Steve Clarke. When the manager came under pressure, Noble stood up for him and vice versa.
These two seemed to have a really good working relationship and it felt like the time that the midfielder discovered his identity, and played with more freedom. Noble often opened up about how much belief the Italian instilled in the players and what a genuine passion he had for football. Encouraging players to play with a smile on their faces suited Mark.
The next two managers at the helm would test Mr West Ham’s resilience. Avram Grant, for as nice as he was, lost the dressing room – a dressing room that Mark Noble was very much a part of. He tried his best for the man in charge, scoring a goal every seven games, his best ratio for any of his bosses. He also backed Grant several times in post and pre-match interviews, despite poor performances and pressure from fans.
What may have shaped Noble’s future at West Ham was the influence of Scott Parker and his dressing room presence. In a roundabout way, can we put some of Mark’s leadership abilities down to Avram’s failures, and thus Parker’s stepping up to the plate?
Then Big Sam came along at a time when the club really needed a lift. Throughout his Hammers career, Mark has played the highest percentage of his games under Allardyce. He was a hugely influential part of the squad. He felt that Allardyce was one of the best managers he’d played for in his career, stating that his man-management skills were one of his best assets.
For this reason, Noble also started to become a go-between for the club and the fans. The fans turned against Big Sam and Mark wanted harmony, so continued to defend the manager’s decisions and style of play at every opportunity.
Then along came Slaven Bilic, a man who knew the club well already. We thought that Bilic and Noble would be a force to be reckoned with. That dream didn’t come true. Mark himself admitted that his time playing under Bilic wasn’t his favourite period at West Ham.
He struggled to find form, wasn’t comfortable with the way he was being used – alongside many others in the squad – and struggled to defend some of the manager’s decisions publicly. The fans turned on Mark for his ‘poor’ performances and it was surely the first time Mr West Ham had been booed in his career. He was subsequently allowed to take some time off to rediscover his form.
While Bilic blamed the pressure and responsibility on Noble’s shoulders for his lack of form on the pitch, Noble was quite critical of some of Super Slav’s decisions. When Pellegrini took over, Noble was 31. It was clear that he wasn’t going anywhere and he needed to re-establish himself as the main man at the club.
Luckily, they had a good working relationship off the field, which translated to improved performances on it. Pellegrini knew how to play slightly more attacking football, but that gave Noble more purpose in his midfield role. He was allowed to do what he did best; protect everyone else and win the ball back.
Which brings us nicely to his current manager, David Moyes, who has managed him twice. The first time around, we could clearly see that Noble liked Moyes and the feeling was mutual. That positive relationship has continued through to today – we don’t need to read about it in the press, we can see it for ourselves.
There have been testing moments for both the manager and the captain in recent times, especially when it comes to matters involving the board. They’ve continued to show a united front. In my mind, the recent penalty scenario was a culmination of player and manager having a conversation and trusting each other.
Okay, it didn’t work, but I don’t think Noble would have come on if he didn’t want to, and I think Moyes would have accepted that. David Moyes will play a pivotal role in the end of Noble’s West Ham career. We can already see that the manager knows how important this story is to the club and the fans, but he’s not going to burn him out.
There is one thing to be said about Mark Noble; he’s as loyal to his managers as he is to the club. As a true professional and club captain, he must be a dream to manage. Despite wearing his heart on his sleeve, he protects the team’s needs and so often has his manager’s back.
Of course, all of these managers have only had good things to say about Mark Noble, how could they not? Ever since his announcement that this will be his last season at West Ham, his former bosses have all been quick to come out and sing his praises, which is testament to his character on and off the field.