I know certain sections of our fan base have had and always will have the knives out for Noble, much the same as there are those on the other side of the spectrum. there never seems to be those that are in between, and if there are, they're pretty quiet.
My take on Noble, is that he is a pretty average player. That's not a criticism, but that I've always felt he's not that great a player, but not a bad player either.
It's going to take a brave manager to be the one to go to the board and ask for money to replace him, and apart from the Payet season, and The Championship season, I've thought that's what we should have done for some time. But, the problem is, he has this little run of games where we pull out a few results, or scores a decent goal and the 'he's great' end of the spectrum gets all a bit tetchy and becomes all 'oh his legs have gone have they', much like the 'he's ****' end of the spectrum gets when he isn't doing too great.
He needs to be upgraded. It's a pretty rare occasion where he'll take a game by the scruff of the neck, which is why it's so noticeable when he does. It's not the norm, and for the role he plays, plus the fact he's our captain, for me, I would have liked him to have done it a bit more.
Now I'd like to reiterate, he's not a bad player, far from it. Now granted, a long line of managers have chosen to pick him - but on the other hand, there's been nobody else really to take his place, so I do wonder how much of that has been out of choice or out of necessity. Again, it would have taken a brave manager to go to the board and ask for the funds for a replacement. I think it would have been a very short conversation.
I think now, the time has definitely come where we should be looking to upgrade him, and to be honest, I think that time actually came at least a couple of seasons ago. To replace him on ability alone, I would imagine wouldn't be that particularly difficult - but one thing you couldn't replace is his getting of the club, knowing what the club is about, what it actually means to him - I get that bit, that bit is priceless, and short of finding another academy graduate that's also a lifelong supporter. we won't get that.
He has been the first name on the team sheet for quite some time, and I can't help but wonder if we've been slightly hamstrung because of that.
Any player we do sign to replace him, I don't envy in the slightest, because they are going to have their work cut out - because they are going to have big boots to fill, because they are not Mark Noble. But when we do find that replacement, the replacement that's a clear upgrade, that can perform at a consistent level, week in, week out, we're going to be a pretty good team.
I like Mark Noble - he's a character. The last we'll probably see of his type, a one club man for his boy-hood club. Roy of the Rovers stuff. But we can, and I think we should, be looking to get someone in that's better if we are to progress.
I'd like to think he's one of the rare breed that's now got a job for life with WHU in some capacity, he deserves it, but to carry on being the first name on the teamsheet next season, but sorry - not for me.