The news that Mark Noble has been awarded a testimonial by the club has got me grinning from ear to ear.
In the modern game, players like Noble are a rarity. A dying breed. Victims of modern football, multi-billion pound TV deals and greed. They’re almost extinct.
Put simply, there aren’t players left in the world who can truly say they’ve played their entire career playing for the club he grew up supporting as a child. Through thick and thin. Through blood, sweat and tears. Through the highs and lows. Through absolutely everything.
What an honour, thank-you to the chairman for granting me a testimonial for March 28th, blood sweat and tears for this amazing club
But Mark Noble has, and that’s why he deserves this testimonial.
Ok, he spent a couple of spells on loan at Hull City and Ipswich Town. But he’s still spent 12 full seasons playing for the club we all love.
However, Noble is a player who has split opinion amongst West Ham fans ever since he made his first team debut against Southend United in August 2004 – and it’s easy to see why that is, particularly in the modern era.
The club’s announcement on Tuesday afternoon was mostly met with celebration. The vast majority of West Ham supporters recognise what Noble has given the club’s famous badge over the years and they took to Twitter to congratulate him on what must be one of the proudest moments of his life.
However, there’s a minority of fans who don’t appear to get it. A quick flick through my Twitter timeline unearthed dozens of fans mocking those who were delighted for Noble.
Suddenly you’ve got fans bickering with each other over their love or hatred of the club’s captain. A man who has made over 340 appearances in all competitions for the club since 2004.
The ones spouting their anti-Noble agenda were easy to spot, with their arrogant claims of him ‘never being good enough’ and tragically ignorant claims that ‘the only reason he’s stayed with the club so long is because no one else would have him.’
Perhaps it’s the other way around? Perhaps it’s because he wouldn’t have anyone else? But then if that was the case then these fans wouldn’t have anything to moan about, would they?
To them, if you have even slightest ounce of appreciation for Mark Noble then you’re not a very nice person who doesn’t know anything about football, or just ‘too young to remember the good ol’ days with Julian Dicks.’ No honestly, I’ve seen someone use that in an argument on Twitter today. Crazy.
Simply put, there’s a reason why Noble has been one of the first names on the team sheet for six different West Ham managers over the years.
If he wasn’t any good then perhaps the anti-Noble brigade should take it up with them instead, rather than have a go at the fans who are genuinely glad to see a fellow fan be honoured in such a way.
There is a single moment in Noble’s West Ham career that perfectly sums up what the club means to him, and what he should mean to every single one of us on the planet.
Remember when he was seen crying after that 4-3 home defeat to Tottenham? When our chances of staying up were almost crushed in two very painful minutes at the Boleyn Ground? In that very moment Noble proved that he’s one of us. A die hard West Ham fan.
The images that followed later that season, of Noble hugging Carlos Tevez in the rain at Old Trafford did exactly the same thing. Noble wasn’t just celebrating because he would remain a Premier League player on Premier League wages. He was celebrating because West Ham had completed the Great Escape, and he wanted to thank the very man who all but single handedly made it happen.
Mark Noble has never been the best midfielder in the world, and I’ll be the first to admit he hasn’t been brilliant this season.
But for me that doesn’t matter. For me there is more to Mark Noble than just good or bad performances. What you get with Mark Noble is much more than that. You get heart, passion, grit, determination and, more importantly, you get a man who is living the dream of every West Ham fan in the world right now, but who will never take that for granted.
He deserves all the respect in the world for that, regardless of how good you think he is.
We need to make the most of players like Mark, because in the not too distant future one-club players will be rarer than they already are.
The way modern football is growing, young English players are not afforded the chance at the highest level anymore. And if they are, then it doesn’t take long for them to have their head turned by a big club with more money than sense who are prepared to make them a multi-millionaire simply for keeping their substitutes bench warm.
We’ve probably got one left in James Tomkins. But, after that, we may sadly have to wave goodbye to the hope of ever having an English youngster at the club who’ll get anywhere near achieving what Mark has at the club.
So make the most of it before it’s too late.