A glutton for hard work

With wins against Newcastle, West Brom and Swansea recently, West Ham has consolidated its place in the top five. The Irons midfielder, Mark Noble, believes that West Ham must not let its standards slip. By Jim van Wijk.

West Ham midfielder Mark Noble has no issues with pushing his body through the hectic Christmas schedule.

Much has been made of the traditional British festive football fixtures, with Irons’ manager Sam Allardyce a long-time champion of a break after the FA Cup third round in January. And this week, the new Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal, questioned the wisdom of playing so many matches in such a short space of time around such an important date in the family calendar.

Noble, though, believes professional footballers should have few complaints doing a bit of extra hard graft for the game they love and that pays them well.

“It is hard if you have got family and kids and you have to leave them on Christmas Day to go and train, but listen, we are a small minority of lucky players,” said Noble, who made a club-record 205th Barclays Premier League appearance against Newcastle recently.

“We have obviously worked hard for this, but we are lucky enough to have the ability to play in the Premier League, so you have to take the good with the bad and if you have to play over Christmas, then you have to.

“We have a good life and playing football over Christmas is not the worst thing in the world.

“You think about soldiers out in Afghanistan or Iraq, and they are not with their families and they are getting bullets fired at them whereas we are playing in the Premier League, so you have got to put it in perspective really.”

Noble, 27, added: “The Christmas period is so demanding and you need a big squad for that because people do pick up injuries. We have four games in eight days and you need the squad to be able to deal with that. I think we have that this year.”

West Ham have achieved wins against Newcastle, West Brom and Swansea to consolidate their place in the top five.

Noble, who had to miss the West Brom game due to injury, believes the Irons must not let their standards slip.

“If we can keep going the way we are going, who knows? But the league is so tight, everyone keeps beating everyone and that shows you the quality of the Premier League, so we have to just keep winning games and take it game by game,” he said. “It is natural for expectations to go up.”

Apart from a couple of loan spells as a youngster, Noble has remained faithful to West Ham, even when the east-London club were relegated. Such loyalty is rare in the modern game.

Irons’ boss Allardyce said: “Mark has seen a lot of turmoil, a lot of change, with a lot of players coming in and out, lots of change of ownership and change of managers, but he is still always been there.

“Up to now, it looks like it has been a pretty good choice, but I am sure there have been times when we weren’t doing so well, that he will have thought ‘should I stay?’

“Now he is coming into the peak of his career and we are moving forward pretty well at the moment, so I think he’s enjoying himself better than ever before.”

And that should ensure a happy Christmas for Noble regardless of the fixture schedule.

© PA Sport