FAREWELL then, Mark Noble, Roy Hodgson and Mike Dean.
The Premier League will be a sadder, emptier place when you all retire on Sunday. And more horribly modern too.
You three were all links to simpler times.
To a time when footballers played entire careers for their local clubs.
When managers managed without vast statistical databases and refused to play to the crowd.
And a time when referees actually seemed to enjoy themselves.
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Mark — Nobes, if you will — forgive me for suggesting that if you’d played a few decades earlier, we wouldn’t treasure you nearly so much.
You were a committed, jobbing midfielder, who never played for England or won a major trophy.
If you get a run-out at Brighton on Sunday, it will be your 550th senior appearance for وست هام. Which is not as many as Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard Sr, Trevor Brooking or Alvin Martin.
If you’d been as good as Declan Rice, you would have probably ended up somewhere else, just as he will before long.
الأكثر قراءة في كرة القدم
But when will the next man reach 550 appearances for the Hammers? Or any other major club?
Especially one who grew up a mile away from Upton Park and walked home to Canning Town after his debut, as you did?
Football fans, not just West Ham supporters, cherish you because you clearly and obviously care.
We know this, not so much because you bombed around the Hammers midfield for 18 years — after all, that was your job.
We know it because, among other evidence, you called out your club’s owners for allowing Grady Diangana to leave for West Brom in 2020.
You tweeted: “As captain of this football club, أنا محبط جدا, angry and sad that Grady has left, a great kid, with a great future.”
Diangana hasn’t done much since. West Ham have enjoyed two of their finest seasons. So you were wrong but that’s not the point.
You cared, you felt it and so you ranted on social media like any other fan.
Perhaps your most memorable moment in a Hammers shirt came during an FA Cup defeat by Manchester United at Upton Park, when Ander Herrera was receiving treatment near the touchline, so you simply picked him up and carried him off the pitch.
We love the old-school nature of that gesture. Because we recognise that the most worthy thing any man can shout from a football terrace is: “GET ON WITH IT!!"
You recognised that too, and we thank you for it.
و Roy, if this really is goodbye, بعد 46 years in management — and, نعم, we said goodbye last year and you came back again — then we forgive you for resisting the ‘Noble for England’ bandwagon.
We forgive you for Iceland. We forgive you for England being knocked out of the 2014 World Cup inside five days.
While Liverpool supporters will never forgive you for your brief Anfield reign, Watford fans might forgive you for an abject relegation, which was never really your fault.
They may even forgive you for not going over and giving them a little clap after that relegation was confirmed at Selhurst Park.
Because you are admirably old-fashioned in ignoring the fetishising of fan culture, the empty gestures and displays of touchline ‘passion’ now demanded of your profession.
You are a former non-league right-back who was a man apart in elite management — pioneering coach, globe-trotting cosmopolitan, multi-lingual footballing C3PO, ardent bookworm and ever-curious tourist.
You are worshipped in Sweden, as well at Craven Cottage and The Hawthorns, where they will never accept you were a negative coach when they remember some of your greatest hits such as Fulham 4 يوفنتوس 1, and Wolves 1 وست بروميتش 5.
For my money, I loved your wonderfully lengthy, verbose but often brilliant answers to media questions and your hatred of glib cliches.
And I simply adored your utter contempt for statistics.
أوه, what great sport it was to dare some young unsuspecting journalist to grill you on Crystal Palace’s unsatisfactory ‘xG’ figures, especially after your team had just won.
What fun to light that blue touchpaper, stand back and watch you ignite with sarcastic but gentlemanly rage.
و مايك, dear Mike, we will keep this brief because, in truth, we know it never was ‘all about you’.
Despite what we’ve sometimes chanted from the terraces and written from the press box, your colleagues insist that, while many refs enjoy publicity, you never truly sought it.
Secretly, we loved it when you once celebrated a Tottenham goal — because we knew you were just pleased that you’d played a great advantage.
We know you’re not a Spurs fan, because we all saw you going mental on the terraces when your beloved Tranmere won a play-off match.
We appreciate that while referees are derided as ‘robots’ — and your profession is now being fouled up by technology — you were always, clearly, a genuine football-loving human.
Unlike Nobes and Roy, you never earned an absolute fortune during 22 years in the top flight.
نعم, you have shown an all-time record 114 Premier League red cards — but even there, you have entertained us.
As you sent off Lewis Dunk against Bournemouth in 2018, أنت delivered one of football’s greatest quotes in a succinct nine-letter statement.
“Off you pop,” you told Brighton’s centre-half.
So off you all now pop, the three of you, with heartfelt thanks for the memories.
THERE’S been uproar about next season’s Newcastle away kit resembling that of Saudi Arabia’s national team. But why?
Criminals doing their community service wear hi-vis for public shaming — and Toon’s players should show us exactly where their bloody money is coming from.
As for the golfers who have signed up to play in the breakaway Saudi-backed tour, make them wear pastel knitwear embroidered with the words, ‘I support genocide and the dismemberment of dissident journalists.’
PEP GUARDIOLA had Fernandinho — a short 37-year-old midfielder — at centre-half, rather than Nathan Ake, a £40million centre-half, in Sunday’s draw at West Ham.
And as مدينة struggled, Guardiola didn’t make a single substitution — leaving Raheem Sterling, فيل فودين, Ilkay Gundogan and Ake on the bench.
الآن, we could accuse Guardiola of overthinking things but where’s the novelty in that?
في حين أن, we should thank the man for adding to the gaiety of the nation by never doing the bleeding obvious and keeping the title race interesting.
AFTER events at Goodison Park on Sunday where Brentford, pound for pound the best-run club in England, completed a Premier League double over Everton — pound for pound our worst-run club — lessons should be learned.
إنهم إلى حد ما خارج عن إرادتي ".
Primarily, that Premier League survival is not all about pyros and ‘passion’.
It has much more to do with having a plan, keeping your head and not getting brainlessly sent off.