The 25 Best Players in the Championship - as voted for by you: Part 24 of 25
Twenty-three down. Two to go. Sitting behind the penultimate window on our alternative advent calendar is another West Ham United player and, as John Verrall explains, he’s a Hammer through and through…
Mark Noble (West Ham United)
“When West Ham lose it feels like the world’s coming down on top of me”.
Mark Noble’s commitment to his club has never been in question, but when West Ham were relegated from the Premier League last season his ability was. Noble is a player who has always divided fans’ of the London club’s opinion — despite possessing an almighty passion for the club there are times when he has looked out of his depth at the top level and his endeavour and work-rate has not been enough to compensate for a horrible tendency to forget how to do the basics.
Indeed, it was questionable during the summer whether Noble’s future remained at the club at which he had spent his entire career. Sam Allardyce brought in both Papa Bouba Diop and Kevin Nolan to fill to void left by Scott Parker’s departure, putting Noble’s first-team place in jeopardy.
This season, however, he has shone and been a virtual ever-present in Allardyce’s side. The former England Under-21 international has had a tough job filling the void left by Parker but his performances have meant that the Tottenham-bound man has not been missed quite as much as many expected. Noble has been consistently excellent this year and seems a transformed player — outshining his more experienced team-mates competing for the same midfield role. In short, he is one of the first names on the teamsheet at a club that look bound for a return to the Premier League.
It is easy to forget that Noble is still relatively young too. At 24, he has already made over 100 appearances in the Premier League and forged a reputation for himself — he is undoubtedly one of the more high-profile Championship players this season. And he is finally beginning to fulfil the promise that made him the youngest player to ever play for West Ham’s reserve team, the promise that saw Noble make his first-team debut at the tender age of 17 in 2004.
Whilst alongside his former midfield partner Parker, their strongest traits arguably clashed. Parker is undoubtedly the better player, all in all, but both remain passionate, hard workers rather than technically gifted players. In Nolan, who has come under some criticism from Hammers fans, Noble has a midfield partner who allows him to stand out. The former Bolton player has been accused of laziness, despite a decent enough goalscoring record for the club, but his weaknesses have highlighted Noble’s strengths.
Some still remain unconvinced, however, accusing Noble of “finding his level” in the Championship. It is true that he may never fulfil the promise that he originally appeared to show, but this has been Noble’s best season since bursting onto the scene and there are encouraging signs that he may live up to the hype that surrounded him early in his career.
Noble himself typifies Allardyce’s style. He is an efficient player who embodies the characteristics that his side have shown through much of the season so far. West Ham have not been the most entertaining team in the league to watch, but they have got the job done on most occasions and whilst they continue to do that, few can have any complaints.
Whilst the former Blackburn manager’s style may not the most aesthetically pleasing, it is allowing players like Noble to thrive. Allardyce’s disciplined approach means Noble’s own lack of tactical awareness — perhaps out of being too keen to impress — is being suppressed and nurtured. And as a result, it may not be too long before he gets the chance to prove that this isn’t his level and that he is cut out to play in the top flight. Mark Noble is driving West Ham towards promotion and it’s safe to say that no other Hammers player wants that more than he does.
Who else did you vote as one of the 25 best players in the Championship? Read about the rest so far here.