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Just a perfect day... with Grant Holt nowhere to be seen

Filed: Tuesday, 29th March 2016
By: Paul Walker

It was just that, wasn't it? A perfect day for Mark Noble shared with the West Ham family, an emotional occasion that will live long in the memory.

Ok, so it was "only" a testimonial, and we all had to walk from Canning Town, Stratford or Barking because of the very unhelpful train disruptions, but 35,036 West Ham fans reckoned it was an event not to be missed as we begin the long goodbye to the Boleyn.

In fact, apart from Cardiff and Wembley, you would be hard pushed to find a bigger crowd of Irons fans in one stadium for many, many years. No away fans taking up much-wanted seats, barely a copper to be seen and a day of memories and history not tainted by all that nasty business of acquiring points and abusing useless referees.

Testimonials don't happen much these days. I am old enough to remember Bobby Moore's against Celtic--watched by 24,000 that night. It says it all about what we feel about Noble that the Boleyn was full on Bank Holiday Monday.

Many came from far afield. Me and my lad from Cheshire, and there were plenty of West Ham fans on the train going home. That we were going to the match at all raised more than a few eyebrows in my household. But we wouldn't have missed it for the world, certainly one of the best days I have spent in our wonderful old stadium.

To see something like four decades of our heroes playing in a West Ham shirt at the Boleyn for the last time was something special. Paolo, Deano, Rio, Ludo,, Jamo, Dicksie, Gabbs, Bellers,, Bish, Yossi and so many more.

You could stand with a smile and a tear and watch our modern day greats. There was Adrian's goal, Di Canio--at 47--still with touch and twinkling feet. Craig Bellamy, all bristling intent and capable of moaning at team mates even in a testimonial. Well what did you expect? Ian Bishop flew in from the States, many more came from the four corners of the UK.

And then there was Dean Ashton's wonder goal. He may be carrying some timber these days, but we are told you never lose the talent, touch and instinct…just the rest of the body gives up the ghost.

When that overhead kick crashed home, I defy anyone there who didn't turn to their neighbour and say something along the lines of "Just look what we missed". To my mind the terrible injury Ashton sustained from a ridiculous Shaun Wright-Phillips tackle while training with England was the single most damaging incident to hit this club in the last 20 years.

What if? Well we know now, don't we, Ashton's injury was a body blow we just couldn't handle. I doubt we would have been relegated in 2011 if he had been fit to continue his career. He might even still be playing now with 50+ England caps.

We were able to indulge ourselves. Signing the Ludo song, making our peace with Lee Bowyer, treating Freddie Sears to a deserved ovation, laughing at and with Carlton, embarrassing Christian Daily with "that" song. And then there was that lovely moment to share with Taylor Tombides, nobody is forgotten in the West Ham family. Jack Collison knows that now, too.

So Mark knows now, if he didn't before, how we feel. He even half-smiled at that "too good for England" song.

I bet England was farthest from his mind on the day. And Roy Hodgson doesn't do himself any favours with his glib remarks. We all probably realised Mark was not going to be called up for his country when, in answer to Alan Shearer's Match of the Day question, the England boss managed to turn it into a Danny Drinkwater tribute.

And then that remark about Grant Holt. Hodgson is one of those football people who thinks he is articulate enough to banter with the media. That his pedantic, sometimes pompous, flowery prose is a match for them. It's not. He gets cut to shreds every time he tries it on.

This time he was trying to say he won't be swayed by the flavour of the month players the critics push forward. Trouble is, Holt was just that; Mark Noble, most certainly is not. He has been battering at the door for a very long time, and actually deserves an explanation.

And at this point I will suggest that Hodgson should take a look at the way Didier Deschamps handled the Dimitri Payet situation. I must admit, I find it hard to think of the French coach without remembering Eric Cantona's brilliant "water carrier" put down for a player he clearly believed was no better that a journeyman.

But Deschamps, when confronted with French media claims that Payet should be recalled, at least came out an explained his reasons. You may not like his views, but he went on the record regardless.

He claimed he had talked to Payet and told him that he did not believe he carried his club form with him into the international arena. So at least our new superstar knew where he stood. He then produced consistent brilliant form and forced himself back into contention. Then when the chance came to play for France these past few days, he has been outstanding, he has proved his point.

Now Hodgson should explain his reasons for ignoring Noble. It's our England team, not his. But it must not be forgotten that our captain has had some stick from West Ham fans in the last past, disgracefully called a Championship player by some.

Maybe Hodgson thinks the same. Maybe he feels Mark is now too old to be asked to act as back-up to the bright young things he has decided to go with. You could say, what is the point of asking Mark to sit on the bench when Hodgson's policy now is to go with youth and use young players as cover for the likes of Eric Dier and Deli Alli?

Those two were pretty impressive in the win in Berlin, and watching that it is hard to see where Noble would fit into this system.

Hodgson decided on this youth policy in the wake of yet another dismal tournament failure by the supposed golden generation. In those days Noble was barely thought of when the competition was Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, was he?

Hodgson may think Noble is not quite quick enough for his style, or lacks the physicality of the modern athletic, tall midfielders.

Whatever it is, Noble deserves a call, just like Deschamps did to Payet (who I have discovered has the same birthday as me, strange how great talent stick together!).

Noble is playing the best football of his life, and it is no coincidence that he is doing so with Payet and Cheikhou Kouyate alongside him.

Paul Merson, who I like as a pundit for his cynical honesty about the game, had his version. His view is that Noble should have been called up and played in the away game with Germany. A tough ask for anyone. So if he was a brilliant success, Roy knows he has another top player on his hands. If he fails, then he can say " told you so."

That's all a bit cruel. But this silence from Hodgson, or his patronising put downs, is equally cruel on Noble. Tell him where he stands, it's the least he deserves.

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.

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