Interview with Mark Noble: West Ham icon on sporting director role, transfers, academy focus and Declan Rice’s future


Ark Noble may be retired, but the former West Ham captain turned sporting director isn’t about to hang up his boots just yet.

Noble took up his new role on January 3 and spent the first month “learning the ropes”, including immersing himself in the club’s academy.

“I always put my shoes on and train with the Under-18s and Under-21s because you only know firsthand what they look like when you train with them,” Noble said. standard sports.

“It’s great, because I get to see them firsthand, and I’m probably the best person in the world for them to ask questions about what it’s like to get into the first team.”

Noble admits he also needs to maintain his football fix, after 18 years as a professional with the Hammers, before calling it a day in the summer.

“You are right, of course,” he said. “It’s great for me too, because I can keep fit and play football.

“But if you’re asking if I miss the pressure of playing in the Premier League, I really don’t. I cared so much about how we got along, the anxiety of winning every week took over the joy of actually winning.

“Suppose we have beaten Manchester United, for example, you walk into the dressing room and you buzz. But within 20 minutes that buzz has dissipated and you’re thinking, ‘We have to win next Saturday now.’

Noble made 550 appearances for his boyhood club and his outstanding service to West Ham was recognized by the London Football Awards.

He speaks after winning the gong for outstanding contribution to London football, which he will receive at Camden’s Roundhouse on March 13.

“I’m honored,” he said. “To be associated with some of the names that have won it in the past: Arsene Wenger. Lamps [Frank Lampard], Harry Redknapp, The Ferdinands. They are legends of the Premier League era, they have done so much for the game. You don’t expect to win these kinds of awards. It’s really special.

When Noble isn’t training academy players or watching youngsters, he now spends his time fielding agent calls or liaising with chairman David Sullivan and manager David Moyes. He talks to the two every day, bouncing ideas about Moyes and keeping Sullivan up to date on the club’s football team.

Big ambitions: Noble wouldn’t regret West Ham exit for ex-teammate Declan Rice

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Over the past month he has also contacted other sporting directors across the Premier League and Europe in a bid to find out more about the job.

“I spoke to Tiago [Pinto] in Rome and Paul Mitchell in Monaco,” he says. “There were a few. They texted and said if you need advice come see how it’s done. As technical director, these boys have a lot more experience than me, so why wouldn’t I want to improve?

“We all do it in different ways, and I’ll do it my way.”

Noble will have a say in first-team signings, but it’s the academy he keeps coming back to, and he hopes a couple of young players will be bloodied in the first-team by the start. of next season.

West Ham were once considered the best club in the country for player development and, given the extravagant spending at rivals Chelsea and beyond, Noble believes it has never been more important for the Hammers to get back to work. produce young talent.

“In that role, I found a real affection for working with the academy and trying to get as many players as possible into the first team,” he says.

“The boy Chelsea signed with Benfica [Enzo Fernandez] went for €15m and Chelsea had to spend over £105m on him. It just shows you that signing young players is getting harder and harder. You need a Declan Rice from the academy because we can’t spend that amount on a player, that’s for sure.

“It’s so important to get young boys through because any young English player who plays in the Premier League suddenly has a price tag of £30million and, for us, that’s fantastic. And it’s nice to know that ‘at some point we may not have to spend a lot of money if we can get players through.

It’s so important to get academy players through… we can’t spend £105m on one player, that’s for sure

Rice is comfortably West Ham’s most successful academy graduate since the era of Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Co, and Moyes said over the weekend that any club wanting to sign him would not simply have to break the UK transfer record of £106.8. m – paid by Chelsea for Fernandez – but ‘to blow him out of the water’.

Rice has turned down several new contract offers from West Ham, and Noble is under no illusions that the 24-year-old could be the latest academy graduate to leave the club for big money.

“It’s just the world we live in,” he says. “We are West Ham and these players want to go out and play Champions League football – and do you blame them?

“Dec is no different. Dec will always be hailed at West Ham as a fantastic player and a top person. But I don’t think anyone blames him for wanting to go and win things. We just hope he keeps going. to play as it has been for the last month or so.

“Wherever Declan ends up, or whatever price anyone pays for him, whether here or elsewhere, he is worth every penny.

“He has said openly that he loves playing at West Ham, but he has the ambition as a player to go and play in the Champions League and win trophies. I don’t think a West Han fan can have a program about it.

“Do you blame him for having very big ambitions? Of course not. If he didn’t, he probably wouldn’t be as good as he is.

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