The Monday Profile: Craig Noone
Gus Poyet’s patient pursuit of Craig Noone finally came to fruition on New Year’s Eve when the pint-sized winger agreed to join Brighton’s League One promotion push.
Inevitable though it was given Plymouth’s dire finances, Noone’s departure will have struck a chord down in West Devon. Far too many signings have failed to live up to expectations over the past few years, but here was a player who was completely committed from the off and, much like Jamie Mackie, managed to forge his way ahead of better paid players through tenacity, heart and no little skill.
It didn’t take long for Noone to endear himself to Argyle supporters after joining from Southport in the summer of 2008. Accustomed to life at part-time level where he supplemented his wages through roofing jobs, Noone won affection when he was said to have knocked on manager Paul Sturrock’s door to enquire whether he’d be paid over the summer months. Exhibiting a happy-go-lucky streak that supporters would come to recognise in the way he played the game, Noone provided a timely antidote for a set of fans who’d been ground down by the departure of a shed load of wage-hungry players.
Noone took a little longer to establish himself in the first XI, settling instead for cameo appearances from the bench. Good at providing new momentum as opponents tired, the Merseysider was perhaps a victim of his own making as the defensive-minded Sturrock came to view him as an impact player to be used when his side needed to chase a game. His star was definitely in ascendance however, and a number of eye-catching performances, which included an exquisite solo goal at Coventry in November 2008, sparked alleged interest from Premiership clubs.
In possession of a touch to die for, Noone’s quality is balanced around his ability to kill a ball before running at his marker without mercy. Whereas many a jinking winger’s runs seem to lead them more often than not to the corner flag, Noone’s conversion rate of successful crosses and shots from advanced positions must have been high at Home Park. Yet these attributes were still not enough to hold down a place in Sturrock’s side come the start of the 2009-10 Championship season, so Noone was sent up the Devon Expressway for three months to gain some minutes at Exeter. The loan spell was a stunning success as Noone provided a much-needed outlet in a team that had struggled for width, and he was recalled after seven appearances.
A combination of backroom instability and injury largely curtailed his opportunities for the remainder of the season, but it was no coincidence that the Pilgrims’ better performances came about when the winger was in and about the side. Cries of ‘Nooooooone’ soon became commonplace from the stands, and this season promised much for the player’s emergence as Argyle found themselves back in the third tier. He continued as well as he started for the club, with supporters losing count of the amount of times he’d wrong foot his man through the subtlest of shimmies and feints. Plymouth’s goals have centred around his wing play this term, and the understanding that he struck up with Bradley Wright-Phillips was one of the few highlights of a desperately sad six months for this grand old club. Make no doubt about it, Brighton have bagged themselves a fine player here. Best of luck to both of them.