Why is it that Mark Noble divides so many West Ham fans? I don't think any of us believe he is a future England player now, but it comes to something when people claim he isn't good enough to play in the team in the Championship!
Some would have you believe that Noble is the cause of all our troubles. It's nothing to do with Zola apparently. Grant is to blame, but only in equal measure with Noble it seems. Nor are tactics to blame, and Parker wasn't at fault at all, nor was Behrami allegedly. The entire midfield unit has misfired for two seasons and a bit now entirely because of Mark Noble.
In fact, it was even Noble's fault when Noble didn't play! Remember when we lost 6 games in a row under Zola and plummeted towards relegation? Noble only played in one of those games. Remember the draw at Everton and the victories over Sunderland and Wigan that effectively kept us up? Noble played in all three games. And last season, remember that vital defeat at Wigan and the pathetic home draw against Blackburn? Noble missed both of those with injury. Oh and Noble played in the 3-1 victory over Liverpool and the 3-0 win over Stoke and the 0-0 draw at Tottenham and of course took the corner that saw Piquionne head home the winner against Spurs at Upton Park. Noble also played in the 0-0 draw at Stoke, the 2-1 victory in the League Cup at Sunderland, the 3-1 victory over Stoke in the League Cup, the draw at Wolves, the narrow 1-0 defeat at Arsenal (Faubert's fault we lost), the 2-0 victory over Wolves, the 2-2 draw at Everton, the FA Cup victories against Forest, Barnsley and Burnley, the 3-1 away win against Blackpool and set up ALL 3 second half goals in the 3-3 fight back against West Brom.
Incredibly, given Noble is the problem, the only games we won last season when Noble WASN'T in the team were when we beat Wigan, somewhat fortunately, at home, when we went to Craven Cottage and harvested our usual three points despite being played off the park for 75% of the game (only Zola has lost a game against Fulham since 1963!) and when we thumped Man United's reserves 4-0 in the League Cup! Amazing.
And who triggered our revival in Zola's first season? Noble with that late, late penalty against Liverpool.
Shit, it is all so simple you wonder why Zola couldn't spot that Noble was the problem and why Grant kept him as a fixture in his team. Crikey, it does make you wonder too why Curbishley brought him into the side and kept him there! And why he was capped 18 times for England at U21 level, wearing the captain's armband. All these managers blind to the utter incompetence of the guy! And the biggest mystery of all is how we achieved the Great Escape with Noble in the team.
So why is Noble selected exactly? Because he is an East End hero apparently and good with the PR. Yet Zola picked him, even though he favoured Italian speakers according to Ilan - and Noble doesn't strike me as the bilingual type!
And now Allardyce has rocked up and Noble is an ever present under him. That's Sam Allardyce, the guy who is worried sick about what the fans think, the guy who simply does what he is told and picks players because the Chairmen say that it is important for PR. You know that Sam Allardyce. Self effacing, timid, unsure of his own mind...
People ask what Noble offers. Watch the tape of that 5-1 victory over Burnley. Watch the second half against West Brom. What Noble offers is a passing range that Parker and Behrami could never aspire to. And that is why Allardyce wants him at the hub of the team. Because Noble can go long with accuracy.
So now Noble is being remodelled for the second time in his career. He started as a tricky wide player but Pardew saw he lacked the pace for that role and beefed him up and pointed him towards a more combative central role. Curbishley saw his potential and made him a key member of the Great Escape team. We all remember that pass to Tevez against Bolton surely? Zola, idiot that he was, asked Noble to play on the right and left of midfield and undermined the kid's confidence. Last season he was rehabilitated but played alongside Parker in a poor team.
Doctor Evil sees Noble as the holding midfielder. He is the fourth West Ham manager in a row to regard Noble as a first choice player. Kid yourself that he is selected for PR purposes if you will. Maybe Zola would have done that. Maybe Grant. But Curbishley and Allardyce? Let's get real can we?