We leave the pitch after a hard fought 2-2 draw with our local rivals Colchester Ladies in the league cup. It was a game that saw us dominate possession comfortably in the first half, for which we were rewarded when Zoe Lipley Hinton converted from a Jess Barling free kick. But poor refereeing and a penalty that never was saw Colchester draw level early in the second half. Unfortunately Sam Rowlands second half effort could only help us to a share of the spoils as Colchester also found the net.
When I look around the changing room after the game I can see clear disappointment and hunger to win in the faces of all of my team mates and it fills me with an enormous sense of pride to be a part of this West Ham Ladies team. In that moment it makes me wonder if this is what separates us from the men’s game…. There are no big salaries or win bonuses. There are no six-figure sponsorship deals or celebrity status. We play for the pure love of the game. Each girl trains week in week out, in rain or shine and for nothing more than the simple love of the game and the pride we feel on a Sunday when we pull on the claret shirt. If feels like these are qualities that are becoming sadly rare in a men’s game that risks being increasingly driven towards greed and journeymen looking for the next best pay packet. Yet, perhaps this would be too easy a judgement to make. After all, here at West Ham, we have an example of that rare and hard-to-find player that embodies all that is good about the beautiful game – Mark Noble. In Noble we have a player who pulls on the shirt and feels pride, a player who gives his all every time he steps onto the turf and a player who would do just about anything to help the club. Performances like the one he gave against Manchester City recently only reinforce that view. It is players like Noble that restore my faith in men’s professional football and keep me believing that just like my team mates, there are still men that play for the love of the beautiful game.
That we should not be lazy and assume all men are money hungry obsessive’s. When they started out playing football, they were kids, loving every second of it, wanting to be the best, turning out for training on drizzly days when money was never in the equation. I don’t think you get to the top of any sport without loving it. For some though, the money becomes overwhelming, but Noble shows that success need not detract from the love of the game. And I am confident that there are perhaps more examples like Noble than the media or our own perceptions would suggest.