Johannesburg - West Ham’s game against Brighton this weekend will be the last in the career of their club captain Mark Noble.
The 35-year-old may be the last of a dying breed called the ‘one-club man’ and is a Premier League legend in his own right even though his name will not come to the minds of many when they think of the term. He retires as the longest serving one-club man across Europe’s top five leagues.
Along with Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand and Roy Keane, Noble must also go down as one of the great leaders of the Premier League era even though his trophy cabinet may not be laden with silverware. Noble bows out as the Premier League’s longest serving player and has amassed almost 500 league appearances for his boyhood club. He is rightfully called “Mr West Ham” and has experienced many highs and lows with the club.
He has seen Alan Pardew, Alan Curbishley, Gianfranco Zola, Avram Grant, Sam Allardyce, Slaven Bilic and Manuel Pellegrini walk out of the club before ending his career under David Moyes.
Another impressive fact about Noble is that he has played under several managers throughout his time with West Ham, with the club often in a precarious position, yet none wanted to get rid of him as part of their plans to take the club forward.
He started his career in the English Championship and also spent the 2011/12 season with the club in the English second tier. For many seasons, Noble helped the team avoid relegation and he bows out of it having helped to transform it into a formidable Premier League force under Moyes. West Ham are now a solid top half of the table team, challenging for the Champions League spots for much of last season and even this season.
Noble began his professional career with the Hammers as a teenager in 2004. He is perhaps the greatest English player in the modern generation to have never been capped by the England national team.
He should have been in the England squad for Euro 2016, after playing heroically to help the then Bilic-led Hammers surprise a lot of people by finishing seventh in the league that season, above Liverpool and Chelsea.
Euro 2016 was a disastrous tournament for England with then manager Roy Hogdson subsequently paying the price by losing his job due to the Three Lions’ woeful displays.
Noble would have been what the team needed in that tournament as he would have added calmness and organisation in the middle of the park for England, something that they lacked due to the then fairly recent retirements of Gerrard and Frank Lampard.
At the height of his career, Noble was one of the best and most consistent midfielders in the Premier League.
He carried some very mediocre West Ham teams to respectable Premier League performances due to his work rate in the middle of the park and will surely be remembered fondly by ardent football fans.