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Noble intentions

Filed: Friday, 29th September 2017
By: Bobby

I wonder how many fans there are left in The Premier League who can boast that a local boy captains their side?

Correct me if I am wrong, but I don't recall Hugo Lloris speaking of his pride at being made Spurs captain after being raised on the mean streets of N17 and spending every other Saturday of his childhood at White Hart Lane.

Mark Noble is from Canning Town, I'm from Canning Town. If you are from Canning Town, you will know that tenuous link effectively makes Mark and I 'cousins' to an extent - the type of 'cousins' who have never met and whose Mums once passed each other in Rathbone Market and shared a nod.

If you are from Canning Town - you will also know that whilst I am allowed to slag off my cousin, the moment YOU slag off my cousin... that means war.

The reason is quite simple... loyalty.

Cockneys Boys stick together.

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Slaven Bilic might have his detractors - but he is nobody's fool. Two of his very first moves after being given the West Ham hot seat were to add Julian Dicks to his team and to make Noble his captain.

Slav clearly understands the importance of there needing to be continuity from management team to pitch, but more so, he understood that the link had to also be made from the pitch to the stands. Like many of us may well have done, he chose Mark.

Noble simply IS West Ham. He represents each and every one of us whose dream it was to turn out for our boyhood club, much less captain them. He represents the dreams of any of us whose son is showing signs of developing into a decent player.

He represents the dream. My boy/our boy plays for West Ham.

Slav's decision in his first season in charge seemed like an inspired one. By the end of that campaign Noble wasn't so much knocking on the door to be included in the England set up - as he was kicking it down.

That season will no doubt be up there in Mark's memory when he hangs up his boots as one of his finest. Which brings me to the point...

Whilst so many of us have a special affinity with Noble, a huge amount of respect for everything that he has done for us and want to show him the same level of loyalty he has shown us - the question does need to be asked.

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The old adage states that 'time waits for no man' - and this is no longer 2015/16.

Many of you will have noticed a downturn in Noble's productivity, and I would think even the staunchest of his supporters will have a hard time arguing that his form has not suffered from a significant dip of late.

I hate myself for writing this, but Noble is treading water, and in some people's eyes, maybe even quicksand. From those heady days of putting the ball on a sixpence and threading it through the eye of a needle, to now - something has evidently changed.

Mark seems content with knocking the ball sideways or backwards recently and its effects on our game is apparent. There is no swift transition from defence to attack, but in fairness there doesn't seem like there is a player in the entire squad who could serve to help with that quandary right now. Perhaps Lanzini aside.

We are all very much aware that the side lacks an identity; we have gone from a team lightning-quick on the counter to one that seems content with lumping it forward to big AC (again). Whilst many of us hope that this is a stabilising tactic from Slav to stem the flow, it also speaks of the type of personnel in the current squad, or the lack thereof.

So what has happened to Noble? Where is the swashbuckling Noble of 2015/16?

Has Father Time caught up with him? Have his legs gone? I would like to think not... after all, many will argue that Noble never had legs in the first instance, his game was not and has never been based on that.

Yet, Noble has gone from looking like a man on top of the world to one who seems to be carrying it on his shoulders lately.

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He finds himself in the unenviable position of being the mouthpiece of the Board to the fans, whilst trying to support the manager as well. That job would be a huge cross to bear for anyone, let alone someone who loves the club as much as he clearly does.

Let's not forget too that he, as much as anyone else, has also been forced out of his spiritual home at Upton Park, and dumped into the soulless bowl that is the Olympic Stadium.

The Noble of old had the crowd on his shoulder, the cauldron of noise spurring him on, the roar of us all carrying him forwards and as a result, the rest of the team too. It would appear to me that something has been taken from him, and just maybe from the rest of us as well.

We cannot be too harsh on him, given that we know that Noble was carrying an injury towards the tail end of last year; that will damage any player's confidence.

The Premier League is so competitive that if you take your foot off the gas by even 5 per cent, you will get battered. Get battered and your confidence will fly out of the window quicker than a bird whose cage door has just been opened.

Once that happens, are you really going to be nonchalantly spraying the ball 40 yards, and trying that outside of the boot through ball into the channel - or are you going to play it safe and hope not to be the next player to make a costly mistake?

None of us wants to see the last remnant of 'our' West Ham taken out of the side... after all, once that has gone, what is there left?

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So where does that leave us? Well, in my opinion, sometimes even 'leaders' need protecting - perhaps now is the time for us to put our arm around Mark and give him the support and the love he has given to the club over the years.

My best thinking says give the lad some time off, and give him the rest and recuperation he needs to find his way back. In my mind, the best thing we could do for Noble is to give him some respite, a period out of the firing line, a bit of time spent with his family, and away from the pressure.

I would love to think that if we gave his battle-scarred body the proper time to heal and let his mind have the space to miss football and fall back in love with the game again, who knows?

What I do know is this... the Noble of 15/16 would win a place in most Premier League sides.

Why should Noble be afforded such special treatment? The reason is quite simple.... Loyalty.

Cockney Boys stick together.

* You may read more from Bobby at stickyfingerltd.com/bobby-smith.

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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