The career of a footballer is one that is quick and memorable. They say you’re a long time retired, and to play every game as if it were your last, but these clichés never seem pertinent until a footballer reaches the twilight of their time on the pitch. In the case of Mark Noble, his lifelong affiliation with West Ham United saw his time at the London Stadium come to an end, having been a first team player since 2004.
Canning Town born and bred, the cockney midfielder had the right blend of industry and proficiency to be a mainstay in east London for over a decade, and through both good times and bad, the relegation dogfights and European away trips, he’ll be regarded as one of the finest players in West Ham’s history.
It was an emotional cameo for the now regular substitute in the last home game of the season. The Irons had squandered a 2-0 lead against title favourites Manchester City, but the magnitude of the occasion was suddenly forgot about when the fourth official’s electronic board went up. An almost testimonial atmosphere was bestowed upon the London Stadium, as all four corners of the ground showed their appreciation for the captain.
Despite dropping points in the title race, Guardiola showed his humility, hugging a teary-eyed Noble before he made his final speech to the fans for the last time. ‘I hope that in the last 18 years I have done you proud,’ he said. ‘I’ve got a lot of family here today… and when I say a lot of family I mean 60,000.’
‘All I can say is that I hope in the last 18 years I’ve done you proud.’
The last few years have certainly been strange for Noble. David Moyes arrived with little hope to stay beyond the season on the Betdaq bet exchange. However, the Scot has subverted everyone’s expectations since 2020, with two of the highest finishes in the club’s history. Instrumental to this was the arrival of Tomáš Souček and the integration of Declan Rice as a regular first team player. The double pivot that sat in front of the defence meant Noble was reduced to a bit-part player, and having just turned 35 years old, was struggling to cope the demands of the modern game.
While during club football, Noble was always recognised as a passionate, hardworking midfielder, who could ride a challenge whilst equally dish them out, internationally he never made it past academy level. No Three Lions cap in over a decade as a first team regular was bizarre, especially when you consider the pecking order for Euro 2016.
You’d have to ask how does a betting exchange work if you were to place money on that England team winning in France. Their failure was down to weaknesses in midfielder that the West Ham man could have assisted. Noble had just enjoyed a romantic love affair with the Boleyn Ground before it said goodbye, and was full of confidence as the captain of a team riding the crest of a wave.
But Roy Hodgson, who had a reputation of picking players from more fashionable clubs, selected Jack Wilshere over both Noble and league title winner Danny Drinkwater despite the Arsenal man making less than 10 starts all season.
It’s been a lifetime of service for Noble at West Ham in a brilliant career. Since taking on the captaincy in 2015, he has represented the club with pride, scored crucial goals, and ensured the stability of the club’s foundations throughout relegations, as well as developing some of the most exciting talent through the doors at ‘Academy of Football’. Truly a West Ham great.