Filed: Monday, 20th October 2014
By: Carys Baker
There are mixed opinions amongst our supporters regarding the ability of Mark Noble, our current longest-serving player.
He can be labelled as an average player who wouldn't ever do any better than West Ham by some, but others question why he's not an England regular, especially ahead of the likes of Tom Cleverley. The argument usually settles with, "well he's West Ham ain't he, always plays for the shirt - thatís all that matters".
Making his 200th Premier League appearance this weekend put into perspective how key Mark Noble had been in our squad for the past ten years. He made his debut aged 17 in the League Cup against Southend in 2004, then enjoyed successive loan periods at Hull and Ipswich before gradually progressing into a first team regular, penalty taker and vice captain - our true leader.
Noble really has progressed over the past decade. After earning his place in the starting line-up regularly, week-in week-out under Alan Curbishley, Noble has never seemed to have to really fight for his place in the starting line-up. Maybe the reason is because we haven't had the talent and depth in our squads - or maybe it is because Noble isnít just "West Ham", he does work hard and is a talent.
Consequently our squad has strengthened remarkably this season, in midfield in particular. Alex Song, on loan, is living up to expectations and Cheikhou Kouyate (who has been out for a few weeks) has stood out already. He's a Vieira-type player who will undoubtedly impress.
Stewart Downing has stepped up, which was needed, and has been playing more of a central role which seems to have benefitted him already, with more assists to his name than the whole of last season. Mauro Zarate has got the flair we have lacked and he hasnít come to sit on the bench either.
Diego Poyet is a great young prospect too. He made his debut away at Manchester United where he coped well, sitting in central midfield keeping it balanced. That's not forgetting the remainder of our midfielders, as well as our captain Kevin Nolan.
Immediately with all the gains to our squad I thought Mark Noble is going to have to watch his back making sure he not just performs but shines to protect his starting place as not everyone's going to be able to play. This could be the first time in a long while Nobes has had to really fight for his place.
We've started the season positively, beating Liverpool and deserving at least a point away to Manchester United. However after beating Queens Park Rangers it still felt like something was missing and became apparent how much this side needs Mark Noble.
Granted, he can be off the pace at times and wouldn't be the stand-out player for me in our midfield anymore. Also, his reluctance to release the ball quickly enough can sometimes be frustrating. Moreover no-one has been doing what Noble does in his absence by dropping back to pick the ball up from the back four and dictating play as a consequence.
We do not have anyone else like him with the capability to link up the defence and the midfield, nor to provide his leadership during the 90 minutes. We really have missed - and maybe to some extent, taken for granted - Mark Noble.
Still, Kouyate will come back into the team when fit with him and with he and Song being better all-round players than Noble technically, he could be in risk of losing his place. Despite this, it could also be a blessing in disguise as they could play as a three. Noble could trigger Kouyate and Song to have more freedom in being able to be more attacking-minded in their style of play.
Mark Nobleís passion for West Ham will never be doubted. He brings drive, passing, tackling, professionalism and leadership to our team. Statistically, Noble is on par with England regulars with his pass completion rate, penalty record and overall work rate. He is undeniably a better all-round player than he gets credit for.
He's rarely, if ever, off his game. The passion and love he has for the club is second to none and as fans, we all know that he gives everything for the badge. We cannot ask for anything more than that.
Despite the additional talent that has been introduced to the squad this season, I believe we as fans cannot let Mark Noble become an invisible man. I fear he will continue to perform consistently but may not shine among supporters as much as he has in the past.
But he should still get all the credit he deserves. After his 200th Premier League appearance this weekend hopefully there'll be many more to come with Nobes continuing to be a true, home-grown West Ham hero.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
12:14PM 28th Jul 2009
''Nice to read a bit of positivity instead of all the doom and gloom merchants, well done!
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