How is it that Mark Noble, such a talented player, has now spent 2 full seasons’ worth of time in England’s second tier of professional football? And, since West Ham will go into the play-offs rather than go up automatically, there’s more than a good chance that Noble will have spent 1/3 of his career in the Championship by this time next year. When he first became a regular he looked like an English Iniesta: great balance, good control in tight spaces, nice passing ability with some goals and forward drive. Noble was equally excellent in the Premier League, too, and but for his team’s almost constant financial and legal troubles he may have been an England contender. Is he too loyal to the Hammers? It’s amazing to think, even allowing for the chaotic turnover, that at still just 24 years of age Noble is the longest-tenured player at Upton Park. One always hopes to see a player of his quality playing in the top flight, and while West Ham no longer inspire the kind of sympathy and goodwill their ball-playing predecessors like Michael Carrick, Joe Cole and Jermaine Defoe did with their relegation back in 2003, Noble is an exception. Birmingham, Blackpool and Cardiff are tough teams to face off against in the play-offs, but even if West Ham win the final at Wembley, perhaps Noble could benefit from playing for a more stable club.