Mark Noble’s order is in. He wants two tickets for next season’s Champions League games at the London Stadium — one for him, and one for the Europa League trophy in the seat beside him.
That’s the dream, says this 34-year-old captain embarking on his last dance with the club he joined at the age of 11. He insists there will be no retirement U-turn, regardless of whether West Ham qualify for Europe’s elite competition by winning this tournament.
‘I’ve been asked this question so many times by so many people,’ Noble said at the club’s training ground on Wednesday. ‘The reason we would get into the Champions League is by winning the Europa League.
Mark Noble has said that he will not reverse his decision – even if West Ham win the trophy
‘Winning the Europa League and lifting the trophy, would I come back? No, and that’s my honest answer. To end on that would be pretty special.’
He’s told his team-mates that, too. ‘I was joking with the lads saying if that did happen, I’d happily come and watch the Champions League games with the Europa League trophy on the next chair.’
Eintracht Frankfurt stand between West Ham and the final on May 18 and Noble says he’s never looked forward to a game as much as Thursday’s semi-final first leg at home.
Considering his longevity, that is saying something. He has largely watched his club embark on this European journey from the substitutes’ bench, with Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek the first-choice two-man midfield under David Moyes.
Noble (left) has said that the game on Thursday is the most excited he has been for a fixture
Noble hopes they can get the job done against Frankfurt to leave him within 90 minutes of lifting that Europa League trophy in Seville’s Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium next month.
That wouldn’t be a case of him going full John Terry, who famously got changed into his Chelsea kit to celebrate winning the Champions League in 2012. Everyone at West Ham agrees that there would be no one more deserving of that moment than Noble, who spent his childhood sneaking into Upton Park by crawling under the barriers.
‘I know how much it means to the West Ham faithful,’ said Noble, who was in tears after their wins over Sevilla and Lyon in the previous rounds.
‘If I go into a coffee shop, or go to watch my son play, or watch my daughter play netball, or go to a restaurant with my wife, I’ll be talking about West Ham within five minutes.
Declan Rice (right) has played ahead of Mark Noble for much of the season
‘I know how much it means to people. There have been times we haven’t done so well and I don’t want to get out of the car to put petrol in because I know the geezer behind the pump is a West Ham fan. The emotion comes deep from within.
‘This season for me, after announcing this would be my last, has been special. It’s not over yet. It will be tough, because the three other teams in this situation will be thinking the same (that they can win the Europa League). I have crossed my fingers since we beat Lyon.
‘Winning the competition would be life-changing for all these players, not just me, and also for a fanbase who have really stuck with their team. These are the good times.’
Noble says winning the Europa League would be ‘life changing’ for the West Ham squad
It won’t be easy for West Ham to extend their stay in Europe. Frankfurt beat Barcelona in the quarter-finals, with the Germans taking 30,000 fans to the Nou Camp for the second leg.
Barca head coach Xavi complained that it made their famous home feel like a neutral venue. West Ham have tried to stop visiting supporters from making it into the London Stadium’s home end tonight by promising to ban anyone who sells on their ticket.
Tomas Soucek (c, right) and Declan Rice (right) have both kept Noble out of the team this season
Moyes said yesterday: ‘When I heard they took 30,000 to Barcelona, I thought, “Wow”. We have a really good stadium now, a fantastic crowd and I hope we can show what we’ve got as well.’
One problem for Moyes is his lack of available central defenders. Angelo Ogbonna, Kurt Zouma and Issa Diop are all expected to miss this European tie, leaving only Craig Dawson.
Noble will be ready if needed. A coaching role is bound to be offered to him in the summer with Moyes keen to keep the local lad involved in the club in some way.
His final appearance in a West Ham shirt is inevitably nearing, however, and the hope inside the club is it will end with him lifting that trophy in three weeks’ time.