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Mr West Ham: Why Mark Noble is a proper West Ham legend

It’s July 2016 and a group of ardent Hammers fans have been waiting for four hours in the pouring rain for an opportunity to meet their Canning town born hero – Mark Noble.

He has been delayed for attending the grand opening of the new stadium store due to flooding in the Brentwood area in Essex where he now lives, caused by out of season torrential rain during the night and early morning. However, those Hammers fans don’t care; they’ve simply got to meet and have their photograph taken with him.

In their minds, any of them or their families could be Mark Noble and by the same token, he could be one of them. This, thoughm is only part of the reason why he is considered ‘Mr West Ham.’

This week it has been announced the West Ham United captain has donated £35,000 to Basildon Borough Council to help deliver essentials to the people effected by the Coronavirus outbreak. It is also believed he has played a part in the #playerstogether campaign – along with other senior Premier League players like Jordan Henderson, Harry Maguire and Troy Deeney – created to help raise funds for the NHS in these current troubling times.

Back in May 2016, he was even granted the freedom of the Borough of Newham – the London Borough West Ham resides in – for his services to the people of the area.

This came as no surprise to West Ham fans. A club captain for four years and part of the first team for thirteen, he is one of them after all, but what has led him to this point?

Below are just five of the reasons why West Ham fans hold their No.16 in such high regard…

He grew up in the local area of the club he now leads.

Mark grew up in Canning Town and then Beckton, a stone’s throw from Upton Park.

Having played for local side Barking Colts, he was then picked up as an 11-year-old by scouts at Arsenal. However, due to the distance to Highbury from his then home in Beckton, causing him to be consistently late for training, the decision was made for him to join his local club West Ham United’s Academy two years later in 2000.

Mark became the youngest player to appear for the club’s reserve team at the age of 15 and after several appearances for the reserves, he then made his debut with the first team as a 17-year-old in August 2004 in a League Cup match against Southend United.

“Obviously when you grow up in the area you love playing on the street, and to go from playing on the street with my mates to playing at Upton Park is a bit surreal,” he said after his debut.

His passion for the club and the fans

Noble became club captain in September 2015, in time for West Ham’s momentous final season at Upton Park in 2015/16.

Upon succeeding previous Captain Kevin Nolan, Noble said: “When you are at a massive Barclays Premier League club like West Ham United playing in the best league in the world, to be captain and be brought up in the same area is something very special for me, for my family and the fans because they can relate to it.”

He spoke to the fans during an interview after the famous final match against Manchester United in May of that year, stating “this isn’t a football club, this is a family. Every West Ham fan out there is my family.”

It’s comments like these that demonstrate Noble’s undoubted commitment and passion for the club.

Over the years he’s been with the club through good times and bad, including in 2018 when fan unrest led to protests and pitch invasions at the club’s new home in Stratford..

Noble’s passion led to him helping to drag one of the protestors off of the pitch in a day of ignominy for the club.

“I’m a West Ham fan and I’ve always protected the club,” he said. “If someone approaches me, I’ll protect myself.”

He plays ‘The West Ham Way’

The phrase ‘playing the West Ham Way’ has long been derided, some of the time unfairly, but this largely depends on what your opinion of the West Ham Way is.

Most at West Ham believe it’s origins to come from the 1960s when Ron Greenwood’s side enjoyed arguably the most successful period in the club’s history. Winning the 1964 FA Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup the following season, closely followed by three of their players playing a major role in the glorious World Cup winning England team in 1966, West Ham United became known as a free-flowing football team.

Often, Greenwood’s philosophy was that it was as important to play well as it was to win matches. In the years since, the club haven’t always stuck to this idealist way of playing, but could it be interpreted that the West Ham Way has itself changed somewhat. Nowadays, West Ham fans expectation of their players is commitment and hard work, with maybe a little bit of style from time to time.

Mark Noble perfectly understands this philosophy. This was never better demonstrated than in the match where Noble scored his first league goal for the club against Tottenham Hotspur in March 2007.

Brought into the side’s midfield by Alan Curbishley, thanks in part to an injury crisis but also because of his hard-working industrious playing style, Noble spent much of the game buzzing all over the Spurs midfield before scoring a superb strike to give his side the lead. He even ended the game in tears following a last-minute defeat, seemingly condemning the club to relegation, before a marvellous end of season run, with Noble in the side, winning seven of their last nine games to stay up.

Over the years his playing style has adapted to an extent, leading the team from a deeper position as age has caught up with him, robbing him of his pace and stunting his previous penchant for running up and down the pitch.

Now, his deep lying midfield position allows him to be pivotal to the way the team plays, often spraying passes to players with more technical ability in advanced areas leading to goals. His pass completion rate each season has consistently been over 80% in recent years. In his 495 matches, he has 59 assists for the club and 60 goals – with 38 of those coming from the penalty spot.

He’s also the mentor for his central midfield partner and the man many West Ham fans hope will take his place as captain one day – Declan Rice.

He’s ‘Too Good for England’

Noble’s promise in his early career led to International recognition for England at U18 and U19 level, closely followed by a call up to the U21 side in the summer of 2007 by then coach Stuart Pearce. He would go on to captain the team at the 2009 U21 European Championships, where they would be defeated in the final by their German counterparts.

However, a call up to the senior national side has long eluded him, despite some critical acclaim over the years. He was tipped by some to go to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Euros due to his club performances in those seasons, but on both occasions was overlooked by Roy Hodgson in favour of younger candidates, despite his obvious experience.

Noble’s lack of England caps put him alongside other West Ham ‘legends’ who have had similar snubs, like Billy Bonds and Julian Dicks, often because of fears their rugged style of play may not be suited to international football.

West Ham fans know his qualities, though, and if anything, this has helped endear him to the Hammers faithful, serenading him with chants of “Too Good for England” several times over the years.

His dependability and consistency

Since his return to the club after returning from a loan spell with Ipswich Town in the first half of the 2006/07 season, Noble has averaged 28 league appearances each year. That’s an incredibly consistent run over 13 seasons. That’s largely due to his importance to the side, allied with his superb injury record.

During the thirteen seasons that Noble has been part of the first-team, he has suffered only six notable injuries, with the maximum time away from the team being 49 days in both the 2012/13 and 2016/17 seasons. He has been consistently picked by no less than seven managers in his time at West Ham, who often use varying playing styles, yet still come back to using Noble as part of the spine of their teams. He even reportedly played through pain and required injections to play for the club in 2017, displaying his obvious dependability.

He’s not always been immune to calls at certain stages to be dropped, notably during the 2016/17 season, a time he said “was the hardest of his career” and also more recently this season during the club’s wretched run of form. There being some suggestions new loan signing Sparta Prague captain Tomas Soucek could take his place in the side once the Premier League resumes.

Is Mark Noble a West Ham legend?

Yes

Yes

No

No

If this season does mark the beginning of the end of Mark Noble’s time as West Ham’s talisman on the pitch, then it’s surely only going to be only the beginning of the next stage in his football career. Noble admitted in 2018 that he hadn’t done his coaching badges but he certainly sees himself as a mentor figure: “I think there’s no better person than me at this club to know the morals and ensure the foundations are kept with the young players and staff members.”

It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the coming years, whether he moves into coaching or joins the growing list of former footballers that end up chatting to Sky Sports or BT Sport every week in punditry.

Either way, there can be no doubt those Hammers fans will always see him as ‘one of them.’

Article title: Mr West Ham: Why Mark Noble is a proper West Ham legend

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