Mark Noble is the living embodiment of every boyhood fantasy. A kid from Canning Town grew up watching West Ham, dreaming of one day playing for the Hammers. And despite not being the most talented player, or the most physically impressive, he nonetheless managed to realize the dream of every single East London schoolboy. He got to not only play for West Ham, but he’s the captain of the team. Captain. He probably has to pinch himself at least once a month to reassure himself that he’s not dreaming.
Of course, being Captain of West Ham had to be awesome last season. Winning two-nil away at Arsenal at the beginning of the season. Watching Dimitri Payet score all those goals. Playing well enough to legitimately be in the running for a Champions League spot at the end of the season. It must have been glorious, walking onto the pitch at Upton Park, hearing the crowd singing “Bubbles” and feeling like you could take on the world.
Mark Noble on Dimitri Payet: "For the last season, he has been one of the best players in the whole world." pic.twitter.com/Mug6L5reOQ— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) December 13, 2016
How far away that season must seem now. Not only has Payet left, kicking dirt in the face of every West Ham player and fan while he goes back to the sun of the French south coast, but the team is in shambles. Injuries have derailed the season once again, and against Leicester City the team suffered three catastrophic injuries to Michail Antonio, Winston Reid, and worst of all, Pedro Obiang. All in a game that Noble missed because the manager gave him a day off to rest.
Now is the time for the captain to put up or shut up. These are the times that test men’s souls, when the team’s striker runs like a pensioner and the team’s best winger, best midfielder, and best defender are all out for extended periods of time, with Noble’s midfielder partner out for the rest of the season. Mark Noble has to not only play as good as he’s ever had, to lead by example, but also get every player on the same page and sort the dressing room out. Right now, there are at least a couple players who will be thinking of packing it in or not caring at all because they can see the whole season going up in smoke. Or players who will just look to get garbage time goals to pad stats and hope for a move in the summer transfer window. It’s up to Noble to help Bilić get the team motivated and stay mentally tough.
So instead of talking to the press about how mean the fans have been, Mark Noble needs to be the leader every fan hopes he is, and show that he can not only be a leader when times are going great, but when times are tough. Pull up your socks, Nobes, and be the player you were last year and in the past. Be the whirling dervish of angry energy that went into every tackle, contested every ball that came within 20 yards of you, and fought box-to-box for the cause. If that Mark Noble plays the rest of the season, the team has a fighting chance. If the Noble that looked slow and going through the motions keeps appearing, West Ham will struggle and sputter through the last ten games. And then Bilić, through no fault of his own, will likely be looking for jobs back in Turkey or Russia while the board will probably hire Jürgen Klinsmann or Claudio Ranieri.