He’s been my club captain, and served his side magnificently over the years, it goes without saying that Mark Noble’s penalty-taking prowess is second-to-none.
Mr West Ham has scored a whopping 40 penalties in his claret and blue career. To put that into context, Noble’s penalties make up roughly 6% of our total goal tally in the Premier League over the last 14 years.
Equally as impressively, whenever Noble scores a penalty, it’s statistically unlikely that we lose: 27 of the matches in which he’s scored from the spot have ended in a West Ham win, and only eight have been defeats.
I’ve attempted to rank Noble’s penalties in order of being memorable, best and most important. Feel free to argue the toss if you don’t agree – there are plenty to choose from, but these are the penalties that spring to mind.
10. v Liverpool (home), 30 January 2008 (1-0 win)
An excellently dispatched penalty right at the end sent Liverpool packing, after a foul on Freddie Ljungberg. This was in the period where West Ham under Alan Curbishley were guaranteed to finish in about 10th, and indeed that’s where they ended up at the end of that season. It’s well worth seeking out the video featuring the look on Phil Thompson’s face when the penalty is awarded, and then scored. Priceless.
9. v Rapid Vienna (away), 25 November 2021 (2-0 win)
Noble’s first ever European goal (I mean, in a tournament proper – see also v Domazale) in a match that West Ham were never in danger of losing. It was fantastic to see Noble net in this game – with the chance to show his penalty-taking skills on a much bigger stage. A shame that no crowd was present to see it due to COVID, but every West Ham fan would have been chuffed to bits to see it on telly.
8. v Stoke City (away), 16 December 2007 (3-0 win)
This victory was as comprehensive as they come, with Noble netting the first in an ultimately convincing win between two teams scrapping towards the bottom of the table. I honestly believe that had Noble not scored that penalty, we might not have won the match, and given that we ended up surviving on 42 points, it may even have saved our place in the Premier League for another season.
7. v Huddersfield Town (home), 16 March 2019 (4-3 win)
West Ham comfortably mid-table, Huddersfield miles behind the pack at the bottom. Cast iron Irons win then? Well it was us, so obviously not, as although Noble scored the penalty early on, Huddersfield hit back with three quickfire goals. Credit to the team, they clawed it back and ultimately won right at the end, and so Noble’s penalty, which was the first goal of the afternoon, gets included as part of an ultimately memorable (if very trying) victory.
6. v NK Domazale (away), 28 July 2016 (2-1 defeat)
Slightly controversially I have placed what was ultimately a rather pointless penalty in the top ten. Whereas his strike from the spot against Rapid Vienna was his first penalty in the Europa League, this was his first ever European strike. In this two-legged affair West Ham would ultimately qualify, but then come up against our nemesis Astra Giurgiu – where even though Noble would score from the spot again, we’d exit the tournament before it even started. There would be no further European football for five years.
5. and 4. v Manchester United (home), 2 April 2011 (2-4 defeat)
What a crazy game this was. Two penalties from Mark Noble in the first half sent struggling West Ham into the break with a seemingly comfortable lead. Inexplicably, however, Avram Grant’s team allowed Manchester United to score four times in 19 minutes. It was the ultimate definition of capitulation and a tale of two individuals: Noble for restoring hope that we might survive, Avram Grant’s tactics ensuring that we didn’t. After this debacle, we ended the day in the bottom three, and we never got out of it.
3. v Bournemouth (home), 1 January 2020 (4-0 win)
The start of the David Moyes era saw a handsome home victory, in no small part due to Noble’s contribution. Leading from the front, the first goal of the Moyes reign was admittedly with the help of a deflection, but there was no doubting the scorer of the third – an emphatic penalty after Noble himself was brought down by Harry Wilson. This match epitomises Noble’s contribution to the team, and in my view has been a catalyst for the Moyes revolution.
2. v Watford (home), 20 April 2016 (3-1 win)
In the Bilic season where anything seemed possible, West Ham were firmly in the race for a European spot in one of three matches where Noble would score twice from the penalty spot with his customary ease, this time against Heurelho Gomes. At the time, this was a very important win, as the victory meant that we sat in 6th, maintaining pace with Manchester United and Liverpool who also won their relative fixtures in that gameweek. It also meant a new club record, 15 matches without losing at home in the Premier League. It still irks me that we finished seventh that season.
1. v Birmingham City (away), 18 August 2007 (1-0 win)
This wasn’t Noble’s first ever West Ham goal – that was a few months prior, in the previous season’s third-round FA Cup match against Brighton. But it was his first from the spot, against a buoyant and newly-promoted Birmingham side, managed by Steve Bruce. The penalty was confidently dispatched past Colin Doyle by the then-20-year-old, with the goalkeeper diving the wrong way. This kick of the football ensured a number of things: our first (early and important) win of the season, something to build on (it started an unbeaten four-match run which ultimately set the tone for a much calmer 10th-place finish), and notably a much longer run started for Noble of being West Ham’s penalty taker, one that was to last for more than a decade.