West Ham captain Mark Noble admits he has had little time to think about his impending retirement during a farewell season “you couldn’t have written”.
The 35-year-old midfielder, who came through the Hammers’ academy, announced just over a year ago that 2021-22 would be his final campaign playing for the club.
Following last term’s sixth-placed finish, West Ham, currently seventh in the Premier League, have enjoyed notable further successes this season, including reaching the Europa League semi-finals.
Asked about his retirement, Noble told the PA news agency: “If I’m honest, because of the way this season has gone, I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it.
“You couldn’t have written the season I’ve had this year – beating Manchester United away and Manchester City at home in the cups and then I’ve played in a lot of the Europa League games and have been involved in some incredible nights. For my last season, you just couldn’t have made it up.
“I haven’t had time to think about it, which is a great thing. It’s been a real enjoyable season for myself and something I can cherish.”
Noble, who made his debut in 2004 aged 17 and has played more than 500 times for West Ham, was pictured in tears in the dressing room after the victory over Lyon in France last month that took the Irons into their first European semi-final for 46 years.
He has also singled out as highlights from his 18-season career in the first team two Upton Park matches from 2016 as West Ham prepared to leave the ground and switch to the London Stadium – his testimonial and the subsequent 3-2 win over Manchester United that was its final fixture.
“I’ve had some incredible experiences,” Noble said. “I’ve been lucky enough to sell out the last ever testimonial at the Boleyn Ground, to captain the team at that stadium on an incredible night against Manchester United, and then lead the team into this stadium and into a (European) semi-final.
“There’s been really tough times as well where you’ve had to really bite your lip and get on with it and try to drag the players with you. It’s just so nice that I haven’t had to do that this season.”
On West Ham boss David Moyes, who returned to the club for a second spell in charge in December 2019, Noble said: “What he did in the first place was a great job, but since he’s been back he’s built a team that the West Ham fans can be proud of again.
“I think he’s sort of brought a club back together and for me it’s been an amazing time to share that. He’s built a very strong, athletic, attacking team and long may that continue.”
Moyes said last August that he thought Noble, rather than coaching at West Ham, had “other ideas, maybe a role as a sporting director or a technical director” when he hung up his boots.
Noble added: “I’ve spoken to the manager about my situation and we’ll see what the club want to do.
“I love the football club, it’s an incredible club. My son (Lenny) is in the academy and I really do feel like I will always be associated with it. But it will have to be on the right terms.
“I’ve spoken to the manager about it numerous times, and he’s really keen for me to stay on. I’m just going to wait and see what the club decide and I decide myself.”
West Ham, who bowed out of Europe with defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt last week, conclude their league campaign with a home match against Manchester City on Sunday followed by a trip to Brighton seven days later.
Noble, while he will have just retired, is then due to play at the London Stadium next month when it hosts the 2022 Soccer Aid for UNICEF match.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian children are among those set to be helped by the money raised by the event.
Noble said: “Having another chance to play at our stadium, and for such good causes, for me it made sense.
“I’m excited about it, and obviously when I’ve spent the last few months in a dressing room with (West Ham and Ukraine forward) Andriy Yarmolenko and seen the real pain he’s gone through with what’s happened, it’s a pleasure for me to be able to be part of making some money for such a great cause.”
:: Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2022 takes place on Sunday June 12 at the London Stadium. A family of four can attend the game for just £60 – buy your tickets at socceraid.org.uk/tickets
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