West Ham stalwart Mark Noble has announced in an open letter to fans that he will quit the club at the end of the 2021/22 season. That will be his 18th season as a first-team player for the Irons. It’s unclear if Noble will also be retiring from football, but whatever, a chapter will close next year.
Noble joined West Ham’s academy back in 2000, having spent a couple of years on Arsenal’s books. But we don’t talk about that, because Noble is the archetypal one-club local boy done good. They don’t call just anyone ‘Mr West Ham’, you know.
I don’t need to tell West Ham fans what Noble has done for the club. They know that he has achieved so much more than the stats – 450-odd appearances and 50-odd goals – reveal. He has always done his best to represent West Ham in the best light, because he understands more than most players how strong the bond is, or should be, between a club and its community. And he had to do so during some very chaotic times.
As a non-West Ham fan, I always respected him as a player. When Dimitri Payet was ripping it up in claret and blue, it was Noble who was feeding the Frenchman, and making things tick in the heart of the team. Noble was also a brilliant penalty taker – if you’re English, this is not to be sniffed at.
It’s scandalous that Noble was never capped by England at senior level. He captained England at youth level, after all.
The list of inferior midfielders who have won full England caps is not short, and Noble might read it and weep. For example: Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone, Ryan Mason, Tom Cleverley, Gavin McCann, Jack Cork… Jack Cork! None of them are fit to clean Noble’s boots.
I respected him too for turning down the chance to play for Ireland, because he didn’t want to take the place of a young, hungry Irish player.
Whatever Mark chooses to do with his life after West Ham, I wish him well. The man deserves a long and happy retirement.