Stating the name Mark Noble to a fellow West Ham 3 years ago would usually be greeted with a smile and two crossed arms to symbolise what the man behind the name meant to us. Now, however, if you uttered the same name, you can expect to be frowned at and told that he is “past it”.
Being a young Hammers fan growing into the game of football, Mark couldn’t have found himself in a better place at the time of his first appearance in a claret and blue jersey way back in the year 2004. To put that into perspective, mobile phones were as fat as Benni McCarthy and Busted were top of the charts in the pop world. Many of you won’t remember the exact game that his debut was made, so I will jog your memory… wind your memory back to August 04 when we faced Southend in the League Cup which resulted in a 2-0 win. His league debut came in the following January when the Irons found themselves at the end of a 4-2 loss to Wolves. This was the first of his 343 West Ham appearances.
To me, Mark Noble still signifies absolute loyalty to a club who showed him faith over the years past, whilst encouraging young players around him to follow his footsteps to begin the path to a key name. Now, what I am about to say will be greeted by both agreement and somewhat controversy – Mark Noble is still our most important player. I know that many of you will be inevitably shaking your heads whilst reading this possibly thinking “This bloke hasn’t got a clue”. Mark has never shown any talent that has set the world alight, so it confuses me that some of us now believe he should be a regular sight on the scoresheet and assist board. The reasoning behind my thinking is that ‘Nobes’ is more than just a player for this club, he is a clear message of “Give us your all, and we will give you the same” – the very same message that we as fans grow up believing in. The leadership that Mark shows during every single appearance is what can be the difference between a win or a loss. He has the ability to lift a team that are close to breaking down, to a 3-goal swing giving us the victory… but it’s not just his mental attributes that make him a key player for me. Physically, he can run for the full 90 minutes, playing key passes and sensible ones at that.
On the other hand of opinion, you’ve got to listen and understand why Mark is seen as a player who can no longer play at the highest level. It’s very true that he is losing his pace and can sometimes make suspect decisions leading to goals for the opposition. For me, it’s not the mistake I look it and remember, but it’s the way that players recover from them. Looking back at Payet, we were all blinded by his mesmerising ability to drift effortlessly around players – but when the ball was lost, you would see nothing more than a stroppy child with a slow stroll back into position. Obviously, I cannot change your opinion on players, games or anything football related as this is what makes the game great, but I can hopefully open your eyes to other aspects of players which are not considered glamorous.
I now pose to you the question, is Mark Noble’s West Ham career coming to an end?