James Fenton discusses the possibility of West Ham’s Mark Noble lining out for the Boys In Green, a notion that has gathered pace in recent days.
Farkin’ ‘ell, I can’t Adam & Eve it. One of the East End’s toppest geezers has only gone and picked up the dog and bone and declared he wants to play for Ireland now that he’s realised his England career is right Lady Mucked.
That’s right, at the ripe old age of 27, it appears West Ham United’s Mark Noble has finally decided to give up on waiting for a phone call from the FA and announced that his international football future may lie on the other side of the Irish Sea.
Noble, who has represented England at every level from under-16 to under-21 is eligible to play for the Republic through his Cork-born grandparents. The question is, will he be accepted into the set-up by Irish fans with open arms or will he need to overcome an air of cynicism before endearing himself to the national public?
While it would be unfair to speculate about the reasons as to why Noble has suddenly come over all ‘Oirish’, one will clearly stand out. A consistent performer in midfield for his boyhood club West Ham United for the best part of the last decade, he has thus far failed to break into the English senior national set-up.
Manager Roy Hodgson this week announced his squad for the upcoming internationals against Norway and Switzerland and, although four uncapped players made the cut, Noble remains in the shadows. This latest rejection has more than likely led to the midfielder’s sudden change of heart.
How will the Irish public react to a man who has only decided he wants to play for Ireland after several years of being left out in the cold by England? He certainly wouldn’t be the first man born in the UK to pull on the green jersey. During our most successful era in the late 80’s and early 90’s, manager Jack Charlton took full advantage of the ‘granny rule’. In fact, our squad for the highly successful journey through Italia ’90 contained only six players who were actually born on the Emerald Isle.
Some of our greatest football heroes had to be sought out and have their family trees traced in order to get them to play in the green jersey. Mick McCarthy, Ray Houghton, John Aldridge, Kevin Sheedy, Andy Townsend, the list goes on. Of course Tony Cascarino later revealed that a mistake in the process of seeking out his lineage meant he had no Irish blood whatsoever.
Some were accused of just coming along for the ride. A few jollies around Europe and beyond, achieving some great results along the way. Of course, Big Jack was partial to allowing the boys a few post match pints of Guinness from time to time. Diddly-eye.
Others were more staunch about their Irishness. McCarthy has claimed that his father brought him up in the Yorkshire town of Barnsley ensuring he was educated fully about his Irish heritage and encouraged him to take pride in it.
In later years Kevin Kilbane from Preston, Lancashire could be seen belting out “Amhrán na bhFiann” as passionately as any of the team-mates lining up beside him.
There was never much debate about the aforementioned players representing Ireland, so why not Noble?
Born and reared in the East End of London, and a former England under-21 captain, who can deny him the ambition of representing the country of his birth at the highest level? It hasn’t worked out for him so now he must feel it’s time to revert to ‘Plan B’.
With over 300 appearances for ‘The Hammers’, Noble would no doubt bring a wealth of experience to the Irish starting XI. On the other hand, why should we accept this sudden u-turn of his when it could mean denying a young player his dream of walking out onto the pitch in front of thousands of cheering Irish people? People who he has always dreamed about representing.
Current manager Martin O’Neill has already stated his intention to seek alternative options to the ones already waiting in the wings here in Ireland. Given Noble’s consistency, leadership skills and apparent intention to commit to the Irish cause it is likely that he will receive a call-up sooner rather than later.
The question is will he immediately feel the rubber glove of the supporters or will he be kindly advised to head for the Roger Moore and shut it behind him?
James Fenton, Pundit Arena.
Featured Image By Wonker Wonker (originally posted to Flickr as Mark Noble) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.