Thanks Nobes, we are all softies in the end...

Now I have been waiting all through the holiday break to have my ten cents-worth on a whole host of West Ham issues.

I suppose the only good thing is that I have wrapped them all up in one piece rather than irritate you all intensely by filtering them all out one at a time, droning on - and no, I haven't been anywhere near Gatwick.

So much has happened in the past few weeks, so many matches, it's best to wait for a lull in the battle to give a proper assessment of things.

OK, so I was all prepared for a rant. And then something happens to lighten your heart, restore your faith (if I ever had any) in professional footballers, and make you remember what this game, this culture, our club, is all about.

Now this is not going to be another elegy about Mark Noble, you all know my views. Buy somebody better and he can happily drift off into the sunset. Until then, he's an asset, even if he was just as culpable for the shocking display at Burnley as anybody else. Crap happens.

I first saw the stuff about the little lad and Noble's shirt on the OLAS site, then West Ham picked it up on their Instagram output. By lunchtime 62,000 folk had viewed it and nearly 1,000 likes had been recorded.


Have a look if you seem to have missed it. A little lad stands by the perimeter wall by the West Stand and waves a message on a piece of cardboard. Noble jogs over, as he has done a thousand times towards the fans, and gives the kid his shirt. Then the lad turns to either his dad or uncle, not sure which, and bursts into tears.

He had met his hero, he had got a prized shirt and now the whole West Ham world has gone gooey eyed over a lovely moment the boy will never forget. As I said, you almost expect this sort of thing from Noble, such is his understanding of the fans and this club. It took 30 seconds of his life to make a young boy immeasurably happy. If you didn't know before, you know now why the vast bulk of West Ham fans love the guy.

There are those who want him gone, but when he comes on and changes the game completely by taking control of midfield against Brighton, those sentiments seem more daft the more they are expressed.

Young boys are not bothered about football politics, accounts, player sales, transfer window budgets, the moaning about the LS, etc etc. They only care about meeting their heroes. And we have all got memories of such moments from our childhood.

I have mentioned once before, mine was as a ten-year-old meeting Bobby Moore. I was sitting on the Chicken Run wall with a bunch of other kids (you could do that as long as you didn't dangle your legs over the wall).

Moore came across to take a throw, and had to wait while someone received treatment on the pitch. He opted to sit on the wall himself, talk to the lads around him, before ruffling a few heads and returning to the game. I have never forgotten it, and I am now in my 70th year. Noble, you see, understands these little actions by players mean such a lot.

Right - now that's out of the way, on to the boring old stuff about the progress of our team. After the Brighton comeback, we are 12 points clear of the relegation zone, have taken 16 points from eight games in 33 demanding days.

No more demanding really than anyone else, but the last few days of that run seem to have taken their toll on a side who won four on the trot at the beginning of December...and no, I am not in the slightest bit interested in manufactured Premier League records over what is supposed to be our best months' results since the Sky League was invented in 1992.

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Months that include different amounts of days and different teams, how on earth is that a record plucked out of a short period of time in the history of English football? Back in 2006 we managed seven wins on the trot between January 7 and February 13, now that's a record worth remembering.

In our current run we have risen from 14th (ahead of the Newcastle away win) to 10th now after dragging ourselves back from 2-0 down against Brighton.

Lots has been said and written about these past eight games, I even allowed myself to image what it would be like to be seventh on my way to Burnley. That dream soon died. And I don't think it is too negative, even unduly so, to look at the two defeats against Watford and Burnley and the first hour against Brighton.

We got bullied in all those games, tougher, physical sides have worked out how to stop Felipe Anderson, and worryingly, how to exploit our back line. Count up how many goals we have conceded to far post crosses, or set pieces, I am sure Manuel Pellegrini has.

But lets be positive for a moment. This has been a season-defining schedule, games against teams similar to us. Arsenal, Wolves, Liverpool and Manchester City plus the trip to Bournemouth, are next up for our lads, so we really needed a good cushion. And we have got it, despite the constantly growing injury list. I can't think of a time when we didn't have almost a whole team on the injured list, is it just us or do other clubs suffer like this?

I can't let this go without a rant about referees, frankly we have seen a steady decline in standards. That's why, probably, no English referee was asked to officiate at the World Cup.

These last four games have been very poorly handled. First up, how on earth has Troy Deeney not found himself up before the FA for his antics at the LS? We have seen Charlie Austin charged for a gesture towards fans, then Arsenal boss Unai Emery done for kicking a water bottle and the FA even admitted to considering Deli Alli's "2-0" signal to Arsenal fans after being hit on the head by a bottle at the Emirates. He eventually wasn't charged, but they did consider it.

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So how can Deeney get away with inciting the crowd (a criminal offence), mouthing off and gesturing to our fans as well as smashing into the corner flag? This convicted thug got a dressing down from Pablo Zabaleta for his conduct, but smarmed his way around referee Lee Mason with an arm over his shoulder. What a nasty piece of work the Watford captain is, who seems to play on his bad boy image and has just accused a referee of bottling decisions. Is anybody watching at the FA?

At Burnley, David Coote let Phil Bardsley kick lumps out of Anderson and was conned by James Tarkowski into booking Andy Carroll for a non-existent foul. Bardsley is a thug in boots and has made a career out of it. His daughter and my granddaughter go to the same nursery, and I am told he's a lovely guy, a real softie. He doesn't even kick people of the car park.

At Southampton, Craig Pawson allowed a hand-ball goal and failed to penalise Declan Rice for a penalty box tussle. Pawson seemed to be unaware that the Premier League have already adopted a UEFA rule that says any contact with the hand, intentional or otherwise, means the goal is disallowed.

And against Brighton, Chris Kavanagh should have given us a penalty for the first-half foul on Arnie - Mo Salah has regularly been getting similar decisions this season.

And finally... our latest set of accounts, which appeared prior to the Watford game, three months before they were required. Was that a convenient way to 'bury bad news' ahead of three Premier full League programmes in a week?

That's a tough job for all levels of the media,, with maybe 100 press conferences to cover and demanding production schedules. Those accounts slipped under the radar.

Lady Karren's company got close on ?500,000 for headhunting J Albert (Tripp) Smith, to buy out the Icelandics, which I reckon cost him about ?40million for ten per cent of the shares, plus a further ?9million loan, only repayable when the club is sold. I ask you not to forget that!

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David Sullivan and David Gold took back some more of their loans with interest, which could amount to ?13million in a couple of years time. I have been told by friends who understand balance sheets, that this latest one is decent without being stunning.

A lot of categories have seen marginal downturns, with revenue still circa ?175miliion. Maybe they were surprised that commercial and merchandising were all down, and we discovered that last summer's transfer market splurge cost ?89.5m, and there was another ?23m pay day loan.

And before anyone starts, I don't expect rich business to spend their own capital on the club when they can keep borrowing. That's how they stay rich. It's the was of the world. I don't see my misty-eyed leftie view of how the world should be run coming to fruition any time soon, so we have to live with this. No problem.

But I refuse, as some bloggers continually suggest, to be grateful. I have no intention of being grateful to any billionaire, ever, and I don't subscribe to the theory that our Board 'saved' us from going out of business. We were in a mess, but we owned our stadium, and two training grounds, and had Sky cash flooding in. Somebody would have bought us if they hadn't.

OK, long rant over with. Happy new year everybody, and I just love how that little lad with Noble's shirt has given everybody a rosy glow.

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