Declan Rice has paid tribute to his long term mentor, captain and friend Mark Noble, ahead of our captains final day as a player for West Ham.
It will be another emotional day for all connected with the club, and it will be especially for Rice, who will be saying farewell to the man who has nurtured him from the age of 14.
“When I first met him, it was kind of like how he is with the Academy now,” said Rice.
“When he pops over to Chadwell, does his little bits and bobs, comes over and speaks with the coaching staff and speaks to the players. And at that time, you’re like, looking at all the first-team players really, and obviously Nobes was the main man, so you’re looking up at him and thinking ‘That’s Mark Noble!’.
“But, do you know what? He was always one that would always come and speak to me, because I’m quite an outgoing person and a bubbly personality, so we always got on from the start. So, from the start, I can’t even explain it, he’s just the absolute best.”
Rice also highlighted the unselfishness of Noble, as his lack of playing time of late never swayed him from just wanting what is best for the club.
“Some people might have might get the hump and wouldn’t be happy with not playing or captaining the team anymore, but he’s genuinely deep down proud and I know he’s happy proud of me as well because of what I’m doing.
“Ultimately, it’s hard to really explain… I feel like you can’t really explain what a character he is like until you’ve actually met him and know him deeply well.
“Just on the football playing side of things, even though he’s not been playing, if people ask me I’d put him in my top five that I’ve played with.
“It’s sad, I was at home and I was just thinking about like, this is his last ever season and next season we’re not going to be there.
“I was thinking there will be a point in the season when it’ll be my last training session, there’ll be a point when it’s my last game with him, and it’s horrible. I’ve enjoyed playing with him, even the games when Slav was here and he was playing every game still, and then obviously me and him played together the first season under Pellegrini, we were bossing things between me and him together.
“I was only 19 then and obviously he was an older head. We had such a great understanding and relationship. We beat Manchester United at home and Arsenal at home…
“And then obviously we’ve signed Tom and then obviously I’ve grown as well, so we’ve not played as much but even when I play with him now in training, he’s still one of the best players every day. You don’t stay at that level for no reason. He’s worked at it, he’s given everything and he’s one of a kind.”