Mark Noble: To turn this around, the whole West Ham team needs to show character

Mark Noble
Getty Images

The first thing I want to do in this week’s column is to welcome back Slaven Bilic. It will be good to shake his hand tomorrow before we meet his West Brom team in the FA Cup.

I can’t speak highly enough of him. What I like to do is take football out of any judgment because the emotion can often colour your opinion.

Slaven and I had a great relationship. I love him as a man and as a manager, we had some fantastic times together, particularly that first season under him, when we finished seventh.

I remember that unforgettable night when we beat Manchester United in the last-ever game at Upton Park. At the end we just hugged each other and when we pulled away, we were both emotional.

Another time, a cousin was getting married in Dubrovnik in Slaven’s home country, Croatia, and he said: “Make sure you are there.”

He gave me a couple of days off so I could go. You don’t forget things like that. When we were struggling in his third season, I looked at him and could tell how gutted he was, because he loved the club. I could identify with that. I know he wasn’t here that long but, like me, he had that emotional attachment.

When I finish playing it would be nice to go and spend some time with him.

With West Brom top of the Championship, I think Slaven would say the last thing he needs is a Cup run. I am sure he will make a lot of changes and maybe a few of our lads will make their debuts.

Bilic returns to the London Stadium for the first time (Getty Images)

A point from our past three matches is not ideal, but I still have a lot of belief that we will be okay. The Premier League is super tight and we know we have three incredibly tough games coming up, in Liverpool twice and Manchester City. Everyone else is beatable and we have to win games and pick up points, otherwise we will be relegated, simple as. To achieve that, we have to show tactical acumen, skill, effort, but above all character, not just from one or two but the whole team.

We’ve been here before; where January sees us down in the lower reaches of the table before pulling away from trouble. Am I sick of it? Absolutely, because it drives you mad, I can’t enjoy life because I care so much about this club.

When you have Lukasz Fabianski, Ryan Fredericks, Jack Wilshere, Andriy Yarmolenko, Felipe Anderson and Winston Reid all injured, plus Michail Antonio, who is only just back, you can see the sort of problems we’ve had. As a player, you have to get on with it, because that’s what you’re paid to do.

I know the manager is working hard at trying to bring one or two players in and I think we need to in view of that injury list, especially our flair players. We certainly can’t afford to lose any more.

I think we need to bring in some younger players if we can because the manager has very few options.

Next Wednesday we play Liverpool and then, three days later Brighton, which is obviously a massive game for us — and them. We need our fans behind us, 100 per cent.

Last weekend we drew 1-1 with ­Everton, which is not the worst result in the world, but by half-time we should have gone in 3-0 up! What has been a recurring problem for us this season happened again. After we scored it was a case of ‘let’s get to half-time’ and ­Everton took the opportunity to equalise quickly from a corner.

There have been too many times this season where we’ve gone a goal up and should have killed the game, a bit like Leicester did to us on Wednesday, when they scored a couple before half-time.

I can honestly say we weren’t good enough to have won that match and Leicester deserved it, but we battled back to 2-1 and were well in the game for 20 minutes or so before we conceded a silly penalty — and the game was done.

It was similar at Sheffield United, when a needless goal cost us the points.

I remember Sam Allardyce saying, “You can’t make one mistake after another because, in the Premier League, the certainty is that you will, rather than might, be punished”.

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