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Mark Noble interview: 'I just want to enjoy it more this season - West Ham are one of the biggest clubs in the world'

Mark Noble hopes this season is more enjoyable having grown weary of 'putting fires out left, right and centre'  - JULIAN SIMMONDS
Mark Noble hopes this season is more enjoyable having grown weary of 'putting fires out left, right and centre' - JULIAN SIMMONDS

Mark Noble explains his hopes for the new season at West Ham: a strong top-10 Premier League finish, a good cup run, even a final - and something else. Something less tangible, but equally important

“I just want to enjoy it more than I have done the last couple of seasons because I have been putting out fires left, right and centre,” Noble says, reflecting on the turmoil that has occasionally engulfed the club.

“Look, I don’t mind. It’s my job – I am the captain of the football club and I take that solely on my shoulders. But when you are using a lot of energy off the pitch to keep the place, to keep the lads [together]… sometimes I’ve sacrificed myself because the changing room is so important. 

“When we signed Marko [Arnautovic] last year the first six months were tough for him and after that I took it upon myself to ring him. Not all the time but I kept ringing him and telling him, ‘Don’t worry mate, it’s going to come good for you.’ And I am not saying it’s because of me [that it did]. But it’s important – because the fans wrote him off, and then he kept us up with the goals he scored.

“Marko has got a strong character but everyone, at some point, gets damaged and gets hurt. It’s about the team and about being together and about doing the best.”

Now aged 31, this is Noble's 15th season as a first-team player at West Ham, a figure no other Premier League outfield player can match. Given Noble is a local boy from Canning Town who used to sneak into Upton Park on non-match days and “smash” a ball around then it is no exaggeration to say West Ham means everything to him.

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“The club’s the main priority for me - its wellbeing comes first,” he says. “Every manager we have had and all the staff who have been here can see that I am certainly not a selfish player.”

There is another new manager – Manuel Pellegrini – this season, and a lot of new players. Ten were signed before Thursday’s deadline day but, ahead of Sunday’s first league game away against Liverpool, Noble has been involved in every pre-season game and will fight for his place.

“Do you know what?” he says, recalling a conversation he had with a previous manager, Alan Curbishley. “I remember going into Curbs’ office when I was 21 and we had the ‘Great Escape’ with Carlos Tevez and stayed in the Premier League. We went out and bought Scottie Parker and Kieran Dyer and a load of signings. I had featured heavily that previous season and I remember saying to him: ‘I want to play and keep my place but I am worried about players coming in.’ 

"Now I am 31, and a lot of players have come in, but I’ve started every season in the team, under eight managers. Someone asked me the other week what my greatest achievement was in football and that is one of them.”

Mark Noble at West Ham's training ground - Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS FOR THE TELEGRAPH
Noble believes the fans have been given what they deserve in term of squad investment by the co-chairmen and now it's the players' job to start winning games Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS FOR THE TELEGRAPH

And if the midfielder is not picked? “I am going to lace up my boots and walk out on Monday morning and train as hard as I do every week. Don’t get me wrong, I am going to be upset and angry but I am not going to be selfish and put myself before the football club because I think that’s wrong.”

He shares the air of excitement at West Ham even if, for him, it is tempered by being a seasoned performer in the “monster” that is the Premier League. 

“You have to get the points,” he adds. “And that’s it. Over the past two or three weeks I’ve maybe met 200 West Ham fans who are so excited about the new season and we all are, of course we are, but the season is long and tough. We are going to lose games and we are going to have fantastic wins but I think the chairmen have given the fans what they deserve with the investment in the club. There’s no way they can turn around now and say the chairmen haven’t put their hands in their pockets because we have signed some fantastic players. But winning is number one.”

Which bring us to the issue of enjoyment. Does he enjoy it? “Not as much as I used to,” Noble says. “Don’t get me wrong, I love training and I love playing but everyday life? People see the money and the material things that footballers have but you get to a Premier League level because you have something inside you and you can play. Ninety per cent of that is self-pride.

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“Take someone like Pablo Zabaleta. He’s won league titles, he played in the World Cup final, he’s been there and done it and week-in, week-out he gave his everything last season and he’s loved here for that. In my eyes, he was our unsung hero.”

And what about the local hero - how does he reflect on his time at the club?

“I don’t think I will fully appreciate it until I have retired,” Noble concedes. “My dad will ring me after a game and if we’ve lost it’s the end of the world for me but he will say: ‘I don’t think you realise – you are captain of West Ham, you grew up supporting the club.’ 

“And it’s one of the biggest clubs in the world. I mean that. I was walking along somewhere in the Maldives and there were West Ham fans there. It’s crazy. To captain this club and to lead them from Upton Park to the London Stadium. That’s history. That is never going to get taken away from me or my family. Joey O’Brien, who I used to play with here, a really top geezer, on my testimonial book he wrote: ‘Nothing you have done will be appreciated until you finish.' That stuck in my head.”

As, maybe, has the desire for a little less drama at West Ham. “It would be nice, wouldn’t it?” Noble says, smiling. “Every day there was something new about West Ham but I am hoping that has all settled down – fans running on the pitch and me rugby-tackling them. In 15 years' time when I am sitting in my armchair it will be funny but when you are involved in it, it is not nice. But I know the winning and losing means everything.” 

Hopefully, also, enjoying it more. That would help everyone.