It’s hard to imagine ‘Mr West Ham’ wearing any other team’s shirt... except he already has
- Credit: Archant
After West Ham icon Mark Noble made his 500th appearance for the club on Friday night, ANDY WARREN looks back at his brief spell with Ipswich Town.
‘Mr West Ham’ made his 500th appearance for his boyhood club on Friday night.
Mark Noble’s an East End boy, from Canning Town, is from a family of West Ham fans and has been with the club since his early teens. He embodies everything that’s good about the Hammers and is one of their last remaining links to Upton Park.
So it’s almost impossible to imagine him wearing any other colours than claret and blue.
Except, he already has.
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Back in August 2006, new Ipswich Town manager Jim Magilton got off to a nightmare start, with three losses in his first three games. There was promise on the pitch, even if that promise didn’t bring results, but Magilton was open in his desire to bring in new players.
That’s where Noble comes in, with the then teenager signing on a three-month loan deal alongside Simon Walton from Charlton. It felt like something of coup.
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“I know Ipswich have not had a good start but I don’t read anything into the first few games of the season,” Noble said at the time.
“I heard the team played well against Crystal Palace last week and were unlucky not to get anything from that match and the Wolves game.
“The fact that Ipswich are down at the bottom at the moment doesn’t worry me at all. With the size of the club, the support it enjoys and the quality of players here, I expect Ipswich to start moving up the table.
“I had a few clubs that were said to be interested in me but coming to Ipswich was an easy decision to make and I can’t wait to get going.”
Noble was young but he wasn’t an unknown quantity. He had already made the first 27 of his 500 West Ham appearances by the time he had arrived at Portman Road, with two of those coming in the Hammers’ 2005 play-off victory over the Blues and another coming in the final over Preston.
He’d also played in the Premier League and enjoyed a brief loan spell with Hull. So Ipswich boss Magilton was getting a talented youngster who knew what he was doing in the engine room of the Northern Irishman’s new-look team.
What Ipswich saw was a 19-year-old mature beyond his years, setting the tone for what was to come in the rest of his career. He slipped into the side easily, was vocal, combative, controlled and struck up a good relationship with Gavin Williams and Sylvain Legwinski in the middle of the Ipswich midfield.
Results improved instantly. Town drew 0-0 with Hull on Noble’s debut before three successive wins against QPR, Southampton and Coventry, with Noble netting his only Ipswich goal in the latter.
He want on to make 13 appearances during those months and, thought results tailed off a little before his departure in November, it was clear the Blues were a better side with Noble in it.
It was clear early on that the Blues would want to extend his loan deal but, sadly, transfer regulations at the time meant the temporary move could not be extended until January.
“I’ve certainly enjoyed playing at Ipswich week-in, week-out and if West Ham do decide to loan me out again in January, then this club would be the first place I’d like to come to,” he said.
It was always clear Noble had a great career at West Ham ahead of him and that his stay in Suffolk was going to be brief, but few would have predicted he would complete five centuries. It would be a stretch to suggest his time with Ipswich was the ‘springboard’ (cliché alert) for what was to come, but it certainly gave his career a boost at a vital time.
Ultimately Hammers manager Alan Pardew decided to keep the teenager at Upton Park, began playing him regularly in the top flight and ensured the rest is history.
He’s not worn the colours of another club since and, chances are, he never will.
It’s already being suggested he could be a future West Ham manager.
“I care about the club so much that even when I’m not playing and we’re losing a game I can never relax,” Noble said following his 500th game – a vital 3-1 victory over Watford which looks to have secured Premier League survival.
“You can never switch off. The last three or four months, you wake up, you open your eyes and there’s a fog over you because you know you’ve got to win on the weekend.
“But as I said, never say never (regarding the manager’s job). I love the game and I love the football club so I can never say never.”