West Ham United v Manchester City – Premier League – London Stadium – Sunday (2pm)
Brian Dear doffed his cap towards Mark Noble ahead of the West Ham United skippers’ final Premier League appearance in front of the London Stadium crowd.
Since making his Hammers debut as a seventeen-year-old against Southend United at the Boleyn Ground back in 2004, Noble has gone on to play 548 times for the East Londoners, scoring 62 goals: “Mark’s fierce loyalty towards West Ham should never be taken for granted or forgotten,” Dear told Yellow Sport.
“I was in Norwich last weekend to see our resounding win, but I also caught up with my former teammates, Kenny Brown and Ronnie Boyce who played in the triumphant FA Cup and Cup Winner’s Cup teams from 1964 and 65. I think the biggest compliment I can pay Mark is that he loves the football club every bit as much as these guys did, and still do.
“We played to win, we played from the heart and with a passion for the badge, the fans and the community. That’s Mark Noble down to a tee. His commitment has never been in question. He’s a West Ham player, our captain and a supporter. He has carried the weight of the world on his shoulders at times, particularly when we were struggling. But he has done everything with dignity. A perfect role model and a part of Hammers’ folklore.
“Having represented England at youth and under 21 level, I remain perplexed that he never received a full cap, particularly when so many lesser footballers were provided with an opportunity. I heard the supporters singing ‘too good for England’ at Carrow Road. It really beggars belief that he never got a chance.”
But while Noble bows out, West Ham and Manchester City have important Premier League business to conclude. City are within touching distance of their eighth top-flight title, while the Hammers know that a surprise victory will secure, at the very least, a Europa Conference place ahead of next season: “There’s still plenty riding on it,” Dear added.
“I think we can make it difficult for City. Although watching them dismantle Newcastle and Wolves this past week, suggests we will have to be at our very best while they have a rare off-day if we are to secure anything.
“The atmosphere will be emotional and electric-charged for Mark. The fans will get behind the team. They won’t want him to bow out with a defeat. City have so many class player. Kevin de Bruyne’s four-goal performance at Molineux was exceptional. But they also have the likes of Sterling, Grealish, and Foden a. Now they are about to add Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund. It’s a team full of incredibly talented lads.
“Of course, City and Liverpool are the teams everyone wants to emulate at the moment and although we are a little way off that, we still want to continue taking steps forward.
“Regardless of the result, I think the Europa Conference place is in the bag. It was refreshing to hear David Moyes talking up the European competitions and how much we want to be a part of them.
“City might have too much for us at the moment. But I believe the club is well-equipped going forward, particularly if we can get the recruitment right in the summer.
“In the meantime, all that remains is for me to thank Mark Noble for the memories and wish him well in retirement, although I have a funny feeling he won’t be too far away from his beloved West Ham United.”
Brian Dear’s prediction: West Ham United 1-3 Manchester City
Jeevesie’s prediction: West Ham United 1-2 Manchester City