Now that Mr West Ham Mark Noble has made his final appearance after 17 years and 550 first team appearances for the club, the Mr West Ham of another era, Tony Cottee, has told Blowing Bubbles the club ‘should move heaven and earth’ to keep Noble at the club, in whatever capacity he wants.
‘Let him do anything, be the ballboy if he wants to,’ said Cottee. ‘We need to keep good people at our club, and that’s not something we’ve been good at in the past.
‘With all that experience he’s got, it would be great to have him talking to the youngsters to pass it on. I really hope there’s a way that he can be part of the coaching staff.’
Like Noble, Cottee was born and bred a fan, who wrote his name into club folklore, but the former striker admits he envies Noble for the fact he spent his entire career at the club, and retired in a West Ham shirt.
‘I left to join Everton, and I came back, but I didn’t get to finish my days here, much to my great regret.
‘That’s the one thing I would change about my career, so although we do have similar paths — born into the club, came to games as kids, came up through the youth system, and then we got to play for our club – I think it’s going to be very difficult for him because it will leave a big void in his life.
‘You can’t look back and have too many regrets — I took the decision to leave because at the time I thought it was the right thing to do, but if I’d stayed here my whole career, I’d probably be second in the club scoring records rather than fifth.’
Another milestone of Noble’s departure is that he will be the last homegrown player who was involved in the Upton Park farewell, just one of many significant events in club history of which he was a part.
‘He’s been through so much at West Ham, from the Great Escape onwards, through to play-off final, all the ups and downs, the ground move — he’s been a fundamental part of all of that,’ said Cottee.
‘Mark’s not just part of the furniture, though, he’s also been a great and very underrated player over the years. Whenever he’s played, he’s always given 100 percent, which is always the most important thing for West Ham fans, he’s never let anyone down.
‘He’s made a great contribution off the pitch, in a way that sometimes fans don’t get to see, and everyone loves to see a homegrown player come through and lead the team.
‘He’ll probably regret that he never got an England cap, because there were times when he was as good as anyone else around, he just had the misfortune to be surrounded by so many great midfielders, a bit like me being at my peak when England had Gary Lineker and Peter Beardsley up front. It’s just unfortunate for him.’
Although Noble’s playing contribution was limited in his final season, his input has not, because as Cottee pointed out, he has played such a significant role in the emergence of Declan Rice as his successor as captain.
‘When you come into football as a youngster, you look up to senior players, as Nobes would have done with the likes of Teddy Sheringham, and when you become the old boy, you look at who’s next in the line,’ he said.
‘You could see from early on that Declan was going to be that sort of player, so Mark has taken him under his wing and passed on all his knowledge, which is what you would hope any quality senior player would do.
‘You can’t be bitter about the fact you’re not playing, you have a duty to be encouraging to the next generation, and pass things on.
‘That’s exactly what Mark has done with Declan, and you can see how superbly the two of them work together. That’s a great way to sign off a wonderful career.’