For so long an unrealised talent, the enigma that is Mark Noble appears to have come out of the shadows at long, long last. His admirers have wondered why the young man, who played second fiddle so brilliantly to Tevez in the Great Escape, has been in the doldrums for so long, his game drifting seemingly aimlessly. Others have cruelly written him off as the latest nearly man of the Academy: too slow, too limited and too..thless.
Well the real Mark Noble has now stood up. And whilst his critics will argue that he has simply found his level in the Championship, I beg to differ. Watch him now that he is allowed to run the show instead of playing in the shadow of Parker or Nolan. He is everywhere and the hub of everything we do. He wants the ball. He looks for the ball. He demands the ball. He fights for the ball. He hunts the ball. He chases the ball. And best of all, he uses the ball.
Unlike Parker, he plays with his head up. Unlike Parker, he makes killer passes. Unlike Parker he makes assists. Unlike Nolan, he plays for the team. Unlike Nolan he has a range of passing. Unlike Nolan he competes for every minute of every game.
At last Noble is the main man. At last a manager has said to him, "Ok, it's your show, so show us what you can do" rather than "Remember you are second fiddle to Parker or Nolan". And boy is Noble responding! Who won the penalty against Southampton? Noble. Who scored the penalty? Noble. Who took the freekick that led to Cole's goal against Millwall? Noble. Who assisted Tomkins goal against Blackpool? Noble. Who took the free kick that led to O'Neil's goal? Noble.
It's time for his critics to reassess and admit they may be wrong. Peters, who knows a bit about playing in midfield, suggested last week that Noble might yet have a future in the England team. I doubt it personally, but as his confidence grows...well how many caps does Gareth Barry have to his name? One thing is still lacking - goals from open play. Nail that and he could start to look very special!
Providing Allardyce doesn't relegate him to second fiddle as soon as Nolan is available of course!