Forget Drinkwater, it’s time West Ham skipper got his big chance
Leicester’s remarkable rise to the apex of English football’s pyramid has resulted in many other success stories from this compelling season going under the radar.
Take promoted sides Bournemouth and Watford, the former having all but secured their Premier League survival against all odds, the latter having done the same at the same time while booking a trip to Wembley in the FA Cup.
Similarly West Ham stand on the cusp of a potential Champions League birth as Slaven Bilic has delivered wondrous football to the Boleyn Ground, just as the famous old stadium heads into retirement. The Hammers are 7/1 to finish in the top four off the back of this stylish revamp, while they’re priced 4/1 to lift the FA Cup.
Even Spurs, daring to not only usurp Arsenal but sustain a title challenge for the first time in generations, have struggled to dislodge Leicester from the media’s glare. If Claudio Ranieri’s men continue the way they’re going, then the Foxes won’t be moving from the top of the league, or the back pages, for some time yet.
Few will begrudge them of course, though it goes without saying that this is not how Roy Hodgson should (or will) pick his England squad for Euro 2016.
So while Leicester’s Danny Drinkwater may understandably be touted by many for his dynamic displays alongside N’Golo Kante, should Hodgson value consistency over any flavour of the month, then there is a more deserving pick for England’s France-bound squad.
Step forward, Mark Noble. The West Ham captain may be approaching his thirties (he’ll be 29 by the time the Euros come round), but the central midfielder shows no sign of waning as he racks up yet another season at the heart of West Ham’s engine room.
The two-time Hammer of the Year has seen some lows during his 12 years at the club, but captaining this season’s swashbuckling side to potential cup glory and European qualification must rank as his greatest achievement yet in a claret and blue shirt.
There’s an argument to say that his perennial under-the-radar status has been a key factor to his consistency and West Ham’s success, in that that he is left to dictate proceedings from the middle as the opposition concern themselves with the more potent threats of Dmitri Payet and Michail Antonio.
Noble will be the first to admit that in the days of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Gareth Barry and Michael Carrick, he can’t have complained too much about failing to improve on his 20 caps for the under-21s with a full international appearance.
But given that his competition now appears to be the altogether less-assured pool of holding midfielders including Carrick, Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier, James Milner, Jack Wilshere, Fabian Delph and, of course, Drinkwater, it might just be the time for Noble to finally put his head above the parapet.
Particularly when his stats this season outshine all of the above. Whether on chances created, successful passes, tackles won and pass completion, Noble comfortably finishes above his England rivals.
To return specifically to the direct competition with current media darling Drinkwater, Noble outshines the Leicester man on passes received, goal involvement, dribbling, goals scored, shot accuracy, successful passes and also interceptions.
So when it comes to England’s friendlies against Germany and Holland later this month, Hodgson could do a lot worse than hand a long-awaited first cap to the deserving East Londoner.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.