Sunday Mirror football reporter and West Ham United fan Steve Stammers looks back at a memorable career for Mark Noble at the Boleyn Ground.
ON the face of it, the question was a simple one. “Any memory of an outstanding performance from Mark Noble,” was the request. One problem – I don’t have one.
Before I incur the wrath of a sizeable number of the population of Canning Town, my response was intended to be a compliment. There is one quality which every manager wants and craves and that is consistency. Mark Noble is the embodiment of that quality.
Not explosive like Dimitri Payet or Paolo Di Canio. Not a man who can change the course of a game with a burst of speed. Not a towering penalty box presence like Andy Carroll. Not a lightning-quick winger in the mould of Victor Moses. But what he does give is a level of performance that can never be questioned.
Noble epitomises what is needed from the modern midfield player. He is committed in the challenge, can control the ball with a more than decent touch and has a pass in him. And his passion is there for all to see – and not only by the opposition.
Last season, Noble thought his close friend James Tomkins fell short and let him know in no uncertain terms. But there was no hangover, no ill-feeling. Indeed, Noble laughed it off during the game. “He is my neighbour,” said Noble. “And I might go round and egg his house!”
But Noble has no time for jokes on the field. If a team-mate is in trouble and surrounded by adversaries, you can be sure Noble will be there to ensure his mate does not stand alone. If confronted, he will never take a step backwards.
Noble isn’t the type to look for trouble but he won’t hide from it either. He plays in the minefield area of the pitch. There is more action, more tackles, more head-on challenges in that zone than in any other. In the helter-skelter world of English football, it is no place for the faint-hearted. And Mark Noble has not been hard to find.
He can create as well as destroy. He has nerves of steel when it comes to taking penalties. If he misses one, he won’t blink if asked to take another on another day. If there is one honour which is missing from his CV it is that he has – to date – not played a full international for England.
A stunning omission for someone who represented his country at all ages up to the Under-21 team.
A glance at some of the names who have earned that considerable accolade makes Noble’s absence from the full squad even more surprising. But Noble is a phlegmatic type of character.
He will not let that affect his drive or ambition to bring Champions League football to the Olympic Stadium when West Ham move to the new ground next season.
And so much credit for Noble’s philosophy and approach must go to his father. He wanted his son to enjoy his football in his early teens.
So when West Ham suggested that Noble junior miss school matches to concentrate on his Academy work at the Club, Noble senior put his foot down. “He wants to play with his mates and that is what he will do,” he said. Noble did just that – and was still signed on.
That is how highly West Ham rated him – and their judgement has been proved right. On 358 occasions to be precise.