The start of the Premier League season would have felt strange at West Ham United. While their passionate fans filled out the London Stadium, getting more acclimatised to the place they made home six years ago now thanks to some magical European nights in the Europa League, there was a sense of the unknown as they began a new campaign. David Moyes was still in the dugout, but club captain Mark Noble was absent from the opening day team talk, having led the club out in east London since 2015.

Indeed, the boy from Canning Town, who had spent 24 years with the Irons from academy level through to the first team, handed over the armband to Declan Rice this summer. While West Ham were never expected to get anything from Manchester City, succumbing to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of an Erling Haaland debut brace, the betting football odds would have expected Moyes and co to show a bit more grit, and one could argue that was down to a lack of leadership.

Having stuck with the club through two relegations and some dark days, Noble epitomised what it meant to play for West Ham. As a player, he was never the most technically gifted, but compensated for it with his tireless running, leadership and determination. This love for the club was clearly reciprocated by the fans in his final home game last season. From the Boleyn Ground to the London Stadium, Noble gave his all throughout the 550 games he played, scoring 62 goals and creating 35 assists, before tearfully waving goodbye to the fans as he hung up the boots for good.


“It will be emotional, but I’m pleased I get to do it on my own terms and retire from football, rather than football retiring me.” He said after the full-time whistle blew in east London. “I won’t regret stopping, because football can change quickly. Sometimes getting the exit right is not done often, and I feel like I have done that.”

David Moyes, in his second stint at the club, also praised his captain for his integral role in helping West Ham go from a lower mid table outfit to a team on the periphery on the Champions League, conducting himself brilliantly throughout.

“To do it at one club is a huge achievement – it’s not done by many people nowadays – so great credit to Mark for the way he’s conducted himself as a player throughout his career. He’s terrific off the pitch and, for me personally, he’s been excellent since I came back.

“He’s been huge off the pitch as well. During the pandemic, he played a big part in everything that was going on between all the club captains. When I came back, he helped me an awful lot because he gave me an idea of what was required and needed.”


So now, as a new era begins the pressure is on Rice to carry on the good work Noble left behind. Having garnered plenty of experience with the armband as the on-pitch skipper over the last two seasons, the 23-year-old —who had been linked with a return to Chelsea, who spent time at their academy — looks to have committed his future to claret and blue, and with the arrivals of Maxwell Cornet, Nayef Aguerd and Gianluca Scamacca, the club look to be transitioning to a new era where they can be perennially competitive. Only time will tell if they can sustain it.