Legendary former West Ham youth supremo Tony Carr says the attributes that made Mark Noble a club legend were there from the start of his career — and his influence will continue in the relationship hebuilt with his successor as captain, Declan Rice.
‘The traits he showed as a senior pro were the same ones he had as a kid,’ said Carr. ‘He’s a born leader, who was never afraid to speak up if he felt something was wrong but always in a positive way, never disruptive.
‘Even at a young age, he was always willing to work, and always wanted the ball, even in the bad times. He cares about the club, it’s as simple as that, and he’s still got that passion and devotion to the club.
‘That picture of him in the dressing room after the win in Lyon, with his head in his hands, summed him up so well. It still affects him that much emotionally, it shines through every time you see him play.’
West Ham fan
Like Noble, Carr grew up as a West Ham fan, and he says much of Mr West Ham’s success has been down to staying close to his roots.
‘He’s so enthusiastic and bubbly, but he’s also a very level headed character,’ he said. ‘A lot of credit should go to his parents for keeping him so grounded, but he has never forgotten where he came from or let himself get carried away by things.’
The dovetailing of Noble’s farewell coinciding with the rise of Declan Rice has been a perfect coincidence of timing, Carr said.
‘There’s no better person to follow than Mark’s attitude and path,’ he said. ‘I don’t mean to copy him — by playing for England, Declan has already surpassed him and there’s still so much more to come – but he couldn’t have a better example to learn from.’
Carr spoke to Noble for his new book, and said it was not yet clear what he wants to do now he has retired, but Carr believes the club should do anything they can to keep him involved in whatever way he wants.
‘…some role for him’
‘They’d be crazy to say “thanks and goodbyeâ€, but I don’t think that will happen, surely there will be some role for him to play at whatever level he wants, but it’s down to him and I don’t think he knows yet,’ he said.
‘I know he has other business interests, and I’m sure he’ll want to take some time out to reflect, but hopefully the management will ask him what he wants to do, listen and see if there’s a role for him.
‘Just being there, he’ll have so much to offer coaches and players, and when football is in your blood like it is with him, you can’t just walk away.
‘Mark’s made a huge contribution over the years, and is a massively popular figure in the dressing room, so his final home game against a team like Manchester City was the home farewell that he deserved.
‘I had a great relationship with Mark, I’ve got nothing but praise for him as a person, and admiration for his career.
‘Now that the time has arrived, I know it was surely a huge wrench for him to leave that dressing room, knowing that he’ll never change in there again. But I’m sure he’ll be back there in some role or other.’
Tony Carr, A lifetime in football at West Ham United, is published by Icon Books.