Former Manager Blog - Alan Curbishley

Ex-Hammers midfielder and boss Alan Curbishley pays tribute to Monday's Testimonial recipient Mark Noble
Alan Curbishley is a West Ham United Academy graduate who returned to the Club as manager just before Christmas 2006. With a 19-year-old Mark Noble to the fore, Curbishley steered the Hammers to a Great Escape from relegation in the spring of 2007…
I spoke to Mark recently about how long he’s been at the Club and how many years ago he broke into the side. He’d been out on loan under Alan Pardew and when he came back, I think Pards wanted him to go out again, and Mark decided not to.
When I arrived, Mark was in and around the squad as a young boy, and I obviously arrived in tough circumstances.
The team was struggling, but every morning he was the first one out to training, the last one in, and in my face all the time, basically! He was just waiting for his opportunity.
When I turned up that Christmas, there were no reserve games or anything because of the weather. So I think every day in training, Mark decided he was going to try and impress and force my hand a little bit.
We went on a really bad run, and Mark came in for the Tottenham game and scored a great goal. What I always remember about that game among loads of other things was, at the end of the game, he was on his haunches crying, and I will always remember that because it meant so much to him.
We played the next game at Blackburn and he started that, and I brought him off at half-time. Then I put him back in for the next game and he was part of that incredible run.
Funnily enough, whenever I see any footage of the last game at Old Trafford, I see Mark Noble running and jumping on one of the staff at the end of the game. But that just encapsulated how much it meant to him.
The reason Mark has been around at the top for so long is that he wakes up every morning and realises how lucky he is to be a footballer. He appreciates everything that goes with it and tries his hardest at everything. Whenever I see West Ham play now, he’s at the heart and soul of everything that goes on.
We finished that season playing 4-4-2 and he paired up with Nigel Reo-Coker in the middle, but Mark can do so much more in a three-man midfield because he can influence the game and get around the pitch because he’s got a fantastic engine.
He very rarely gives the ball away, he can dictate the tempo – slow it down, or speed it up – and I think he understands the game and what’s needed when.
After that great escape, I brought in some other players, like Scotty Parker, but he saw it as a challenge. He didn’t think ‘Oh, I’ve got to get out of here, I’m never going to get in this team’.
Every time there’s been a managerial change there, he’s seen that as a challenge as well. He sees it as a challenge that he’s got to be in their faces every day to get in the side.
The other memory I’ve got is that after that great escape, we sold Carlos Tevez to Man United, and the biggest selling shirt that next season was Mark Noble’s – because I think the fans appreciate that he’s one of them and how humble he is.
He appreciates every day as a professional footballer and can’t quite believe that he’s captain of West Ham and playing in the Premier League.