The end of the Mark Noble era at West Ham United is nigh with our captain entering his final month in claret and blue. This year at Blowing Bubbles we have been paying tribute to what is likely to be the last ever West Ham one-club man.
Our number 16 has been the stalwart of the West Ham midfield for most of my life and it will feel odd when it comes to next season to not see his name amongst the starting eleven or among the substitutes. I cannot praise his loyalty, and leadership highly enough, and to me, he epitomises everything positive about West Ham United – both on and off the pitch.
In this month’s edition, I will finally put an end to the myth that Mark Noble is a mere penalty merchant as I look back at his top 10 goals in a West Ham shirt. With 47 Premier League goals, the skipper is joint second with Paolo Di Canio for all-time top-flight goals – and there are some absolute bangers amongst those 47.
The One which ended the Anfield Curse:
Liverpool 0-3 West Ham United. We hadn’t won at Anfield since the Beatles ruled the radio waves in 1963 with the song – She Loves You, and fast-forward 52 long painful years, boy did we love our Iron Men on Merseyside.
Following good work by Manuel Lanzini on the right side forcing Dejan Lovren into a mistake, the Argentine picked out Noble on the edge of the box who slotted the ball into the corner to double our lead on the day and send the lucky travelling claret and blue army into a frenzy.
The midfielder was later controversially shown a red card, which was subsequently rescinded. But a cultured finish which helped set the tone for an unbelievable Farewell Boleyn season and a historic win at Anfield is number one on the list.
The One before the Tears:
West Ham United 3-4 Tottenham Hotspur. It was the game which started our revival in 2007. Mark Noble, then a young whippersnapper, like every West Ham fan watching on TV or in the stands, thought it was all over. The youngster pictured at full-time in floods of tears won the hearts of our faithful as we could relate to what he was going through.
His day went from pure unrivalled ecstasy to agony, we had blown another lead and looked down and out after a performance that promised so much but ultimately added another loss to the defeat’s column.
On the day, Carlos Tevez scored his first goal in claret and blue with a wonderful free-kick, it is easy to forget the wonderful half-volley finish from outside the box from Noble, for the opening goal which helped us on our way to a 2-0 half-time lead.
Of course, we went on to lose the game 4-3 thanks to a last-minute Paul Stalteri winner which silenced the Upton Park faithful and led Mark Noble to tears. Little did we know that last-minute goal was the mere light to the great escape fuse.
The Good Friday Massacre:
Barnsley 0-4 West Ham United 2012. A quick trip to the Championship season for this one – as you simply can’t not put this goal in for the sheer cheek of it.
We travelled to Yorkshire on Good Friday 2012 knowing only a win would keep our fleeting automatic promotion hopes alive after we saw Reading (who had come from nowhere) climb to the summit of the Championship table.
Luckily for us, we came up against a struggling Barnsley side who had just lost their top-goalscorer to West Ham themselves in Ricardo Vaz Te. With us already cruising at 2-0 following goals from Kevin Nolan and Nicky Maynard (remember him?!) Spurs loanee David Button attempted to get to a ball before Maynard could only scuff the ball into the path of Noble – who took a touch – looked up and nonchalantly dinked the ball over the top of the keeper and into the top corner.
A lovely finish to help the Irons into a 3-0 lead, we would go on to win 4-0 following a goal from the returning Vaz Te, as we know now we did miss out on automatic promotion but had a special day at Wembley to secure promotion.
The Oh So Sweet Last-Minute Penalty:
West Ham United 1-0 Liverpool 2008. Following seven straight defeats against the Reds, Alan Curbishley’s Irons finally got a formula that worked, we grabbed a deserved win over Liverpool at Upton Park in 2008 as a 20-year-old Mark Noble was the coolest man in the stadium to slot past Pepe Reina deep into second-half injury time.
It is a game I remember fondly listening to on the radio whilst talking to the token other West Ham fan in the school on MSN messenger (remember that?!). Casually stating to him that 0-0 was a great result given the history of the results against the Merseysiders, only for me to shock him with a statement of “GOOOOOOOOAAALLL”.
We broke down the left-hand side with Freddie Ljungberg who cut back onto his left-foot looking to fire a shot away only for Jamie Carragher to slide in and catch his trailing leg to leave referee Alan Wiley with no hesitation to point to the spot in the dying moments of the match.
The bottle to take that penalty in front of the Bobby Moore Lower with essentially the last kick of the game is impressive for any player, but for a 20-year-old to do it is all the more admirable. The youngster stepped up and coolly slotted the ball past the Spaniard to send us to a famous win.
The Cheeky outside of the boot finish:
Blackburn 1-1 West Ham United 2009. Not the most significant of goals in terms of importance on the list, but this goal showed another string to Noble’s technical bow.
A back-to-the-walls performance from the Hammers, who struggled despite their league positions superiority against a gritty Sam Allardyce-led Blackburn saw Noble strike in a 1-1 draw in Lancashire.
Our stalwart started and finished a well-crafted move for the visitors although it may well have been chalked off nowadays with VAR with replays suggesting that the ball played through to Luis Boa-Morte saw the Portuguese man in an offside position.
Boa-Morte found Diego Tristan who laid the ball into the path of Noble who wonderfully bent the ball around the defenders with the outside of his boot and into the bottom corner. Blackburn would go on and get a deserved equaliser through Keith Andrews.
The Norfolk Comeback Worldie:
Norwich 2-2 West Ham 2016. With us chasing an unlikely Champions League place during our Farewell Boleyn campaign every point was crucial, so when Slaven Bilic’s men found themselves 2-0 down against a struggling Norwich side – worries began to spread among the West Ham faithful that any dropped points would prove costly.
Dimitri Payet gave us hope when he pulled a goal back midway through the second half, and the Frenchman was also involved, as he so often was, in the equaliser. Payet reached the by-line, saw Noble screaming for the ball at the edge of the box, and played a perfectly weighted ball to our number 16 who lashed his shot into the top corner to complete the comeback and add another vital point on the board for the European-chasing Irons.
Noble at the Double in Hawthorns’ success:
West Bromwich Albion 0-3 West Ham United 2016. It is a rare feat when Noble scores two open play goals in one game but that is exactly what he achieved in the Midlands in 2016 in another crucial win during the Farewell Boleyn season.
His first in the game was pretty decent as he weaved his way into the box before toe-poking the ball past the onrushing keeper. His second though was the type of finish he excels at, Andy Carroll reached the by-line and dinked the ball into the box, Noble ran onto the ball left the ground and unleashed a vicious volley into the roof of the net to give him his second and our third on the day to boost our European hopes.
The Yorkshire Massacre the sequel:
Huddersfield 1-4 West Ham United 2018. David Moyes claimed his 200th win in management in Huddersfield in 2018 as his West Ham side demolished the Terriers to extend our unbeaten streak to five at the time and pull us further away from trouble.
When you look back at performances like this one it is baffling to see why the board replaced the Scotsman in favour of the more exotic-sounding manager in Manuel Pellegrini. Noble was heavily involved again in this win, scoring the opening goal in this hammering.
He showed his typical level of commitment and leadership by pressing from the front to force a mistake out of the Huddersfield defender to find himself through on goal, the skipper then smashed the ball past the keeper to put the Irons one up.
It then turned into the Arnautovic and Lanzini show as the visitors cut through Huddersfield’s backline time after time in the second half. But Noble set the precedent for the day with his opener and led from the front all game.
That Great Escape Volley:
West Ham United 3-1 Bolton 2007. Possibly one of the most important goals in his career, we were battling for survival under Alan Curbishley, remember earlier in the article when we all thought the Hammers were doomed after falling to a 4-3 defeat Spurs?
Well, fast-forward a couple of months and we are now on a great run, Tevez is starting to tear it up in claret and blue, and Robert Green has turned into prime Gordon Banks. We are on a roll, and this result was another impressive cog in the wheel to survival.
With Bolton flying high in the league, it was a game that could have caused us all sorts of issues, and indeed we were smashed by the Wanderers earlier on in the season which saw the demise of Alan Pardew.
Tevez scored a double, but he was outshone by a wonderful volley from Noble. Tevez crossed the ball into the youngster who smashed home his volley past future Hammer Jussi Jääskeläinen to give us a 3-0 half-time lead.
Bolton pulled a goal back through the late Gary Speed but it was a further crucial three points on the board, and with us knowing a trip to Old Trafford was on the horizon getting as many points on the board was vital, of course, we grabbed an unexpected win in Manchester but it was results like the one against Bolton at Upton Park that the laid the foundations for the Great Escape.
The One that shocked us all:
Leicester City 0-2 West Ham United 2018. You know a goal is special when players look genuinely shocked when it flies in. I can still see Cheikhou Kouyate, wide-mouthed, hand on his head in surprise as he looked on as his skipper slashed a half-volley through a crowded box into the bottom corner in the King Power Stadium sun.
It was the goal that secured our Premier League survival in the King Power stadium sunshine and a goal that the travelling supporters that day will never forget, a real ‘I was there moment’. A special goal and a worthy winner of his best goal compilation.
A final word from me on Noble, the first player I have seen through his whole West Ham career, a true West Ham great who will likely go down in history as the last ever one-club man. A true role model who deserves all the praise and accolades he will receive in the coming weeks as he hangs his boots up. All the best Nobes and thank you for the memories.