It was good to hear Hansen singing a West Ham players praises on MOTD for a change. Usually it's all about how our centre halves are too far apart, how we can't defend set pieces, how the position of our keeper is all wrong at a free kick and how detached our lone striker is. So for Hansen to say that he would be surprised if ANY player performed better this weekend than Noble at Cardiff, then we should sit up and take notice.
Noble is, of course, a controversial figure. Some fans recognise his worth, others sit on the fence, and there's a significant faction who blame him for every defeat: too slow, can't tackle, no vision, can't score, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
What these critics can't explain, however, are the stats, which prove that Noble is a comparable player to Gerrard in his prime in every respect other than goal scoring. The miles covered in a game are awesome, his circulation of the ball is phenomenal, his pass completion rate is consistently around 82% (and he does not confine himself to short five yard passes), his number of tackles per game is praiseworthy, and given he won't have a forward line, his assist rate aint bad either!
Indeed, Noble is for me, the perfect captain. Yes he gets booked, but when booked, it is for a full blooded challenge in pursuit of the ball, or he is taking one for the team to prevent the opposition breaking; unlike Nolan who churlishly rakes opponents from behind for the hell of it or kicks an opponent when he knows he is too slow to get to the ball. And Noble has only picked up three reds in his entire career - which compares favourably with Nolan's two in a month - and suggests that he exercises sensible restraint after receiving the first yellow. When Noble exchanged shirts with Bellamy yesterday, he proudly retained that captain's armband around his biceps, and I reckon you would have had to cut his arm off to remove it.
And yesterday's game exemplified Noble: he was always available to receive the ball, always linking the play, always running to support others, always looking to close out danger and always battling for the shirt and the cause. To be fair, in Taylor and Collison, he had two willing deputies, two others who were prepared to punch their weight alongside him - and that's not the case with Morrison, Cole and Nolan, for example.
Now we shouldn't get carried away because we were only playing Cardiff, but the balance of yesterday's team looked better because of the committed engine at the heart of the team and Jarvis perhaps looked a better player because he was allowed to play slightly higher up the pitch.
I don't expect Noble's critics to suddenly hail him a genius, but it would be good if those who hurry to criticise when he makes a mistake, were to admit that yesterday he was superb. And maybe, just maybe, if we were ALL to unite behind Noble as Captain Fantastic, we might kick on from here and move up the table.