Mr West Ham has returned home. Just eight months on from hanging up his boots, after making 550 first team appearances for his boyhood club, Mark Noble is back when we need him most. The success under David Moyes over the last two seasons were underlined massively by Noble’s passion, influence and experience in the dressing room.
While Moyes was able to mastermind two top-seven finishes in the Premier League and a Europa League semi-final, Noble was the man behind the scenes making sure the players were all aligned. Not just with the manager’s ideas, but equally with the club’s values in mind. Every single player, new and old, had arrived on the same page to make those seasons two of the best in the club’s modern history. West Ham’s page. Noble’s page. Our page.
So it’s no surprise that many had been pointing at Noble’s retirement as part of the reason we’ve slipped back to being relegation candidates immediately after he left the dressing room. It would be naive to suggest our plight this term is solely down to Noble’s absence, but it’s hard to ignore the impact it has made on squad harmony, particularly involving the £170m worth of new signings who arrived in the summer.
That’s not to suggest squad harmony no longer exists, it clearly does, but it would also be naive to discredit just how important Noble was to this very important factor behind our recent successes. Therefore, the decision to bring Noble back to the club as sporting director is a very deliberate and very clever move by those in power.
Noble’s remit in his newly created post is to work closely with Moyes and the club’s directors to provide input, assistance and advice across footballing matters, including recruitment, academy development and player and staff wellbeing. Technically, they’ve brought in the one man on this planet who knows more about West Ham than anyone else to help connect the dots behind the scenes.
To make sure everyone, from directors all the way down to the training ground maintenance team, remains on the same page as the football club continues its journey of growth. There literally isn’t anyone in the world right now who is more suited to that role. His impact on the youth players has always been clear, having been the perfect example of hard work, dedication and love for the club being enough to make it in east London, even if you’re not destined to be the next big thing.
While a world class Declan Rice will always tell you of Noble’s influence on his rise to international superstar, there will be many other academy products from recent years, all of which will make a career out of the game without reaching the heights Rice has, who will point to Noble as the man who helped them achieve their dreams, directly and indirectly. Not just through words and support, but by actions and influence.
From a recruitment point of view, Noble’s input is also bound to be vital. Who better than to explain to potential new recruits exactly what it means to wear the famous claret and blue than someone who spent 24 years doing it, from academy level all the way through to first team captaincy?
You just have to watch Noble’s documentary, released last summer by the club, to see not just how important and involved Noble was to the club in so many different areas, but also just how loved he was by everyone at the club and within the community. There’s a reason he’s called Mr West Ham. He doesn’t just embody the heart and soul of our great football club. He embodies what it means to be an eastender.
Hard graft, grit and determination. Passion, honesty and love. The man is very special to the club and the supporters and his knowledge and experience of everything West Ham and east London simply could not be wasted by him slipping off into the sunset after retirement. However, calls for him to be a temporary replacement for Moyes should he be sacked are ludicrous to say the least.
He must not be put in a position where his West Ham legacy is tainted and he must not be put in a position where his focus on making sure the club is aligned from top to bottom is replaced by the stresses and pressures of a Premier League survival fight.vLet him do what we know he’s best at. Let him do what’s right for the club. Let him do the work to ensure West Ham remains on the same page. His page.
Since his official return to the club the team is unbeaten (draw at Leeds and win at Brentford in the FA Cup). Coincidence? Maybe. But he’s back to help the club pick itself back up again. The Messiah has returned to help the Moyesiah, and that’s something we should all be celebrating right now.