Liam Noble, the skilful midfielder subject of a £100k bid from Notts County just two months ago, has quit Forest Green with immediate effect.
The official reason has been cited as a desire to be closer to his family in the North East, which may very well be true. However, Forest Green have had a record of disharmony and disarray, and this blow couldn’t have come at a worse time. Is it coincidence that just two days after being back at Meadow Lane for the first time he quits?
Mark Cooper desperately needed some good news and this weekends 1-1 draw with Notts County must have felt like a turning point. The struggle to hold on to his star player was one of the transfer sagas of the pre-season, certainly in League Two. It gave me plenty to write about and perhaps I focused a little too much on our National League title rivals.
I’m going to confess the news today has absolutely delighted me, as awful as that sounds. My dislike of Forest Green almost (calm down, I said almost) runs deeper than that of Grimsby. After all, Grimsby are at least a proper club that have an adequate following for League Two. Forest Green epitomise everything wrong with the modern game, a rich man’s play thing without the support of the local community. Sure, the Nailsworth population to attendance ratio is high, but the same could be said of Bassingham or Wragby. Just because you’re well supported in a sparsely populated area doesn’t make you a viable league club.
The whole ‘fairy tale’ thing wound me up too, how much of a fairy tale is buying your way into the Football League at the fourth attempt? They might have environmental policies that please many who are easily distracted, but spending £2.4m profits from an eco energy firm on a village football team is far from sustainable, especially on crowds of less than 2,000. They can serve all the vegetariam meals they want and harp on about saving the planet, but when Ecotricity price rises begin to make eco-energy more expensive than good old fossil fuels, something is seriously wrong. Then they have the temerity to have a go at our style of football after their play off win! Nope, there are no redeeming qualities down in Gloucestershire, from soaking wet fans to spitting goal keepers. (Yes, I’m aware of the problems at Sincil Bank this weekend, I’ll address those separately).
I wonder what really has happened down at the New Lawn? Is there a family issue for Noble? It is entirely possible, we have lost players in the past who wanted to be closer to home. Dean Keates for instance spent six months at City before citing the same reason to earn a move, and within a year or so he moved to Peterborough, the same sort of distance as Lincoln. It is a go-to excuse when club and player wish to part but nobody wants bad press.
It is acutely embarrassing for Forest Green and perhaps an indication of that decadent budget they seem intent on frittering away. Noble could have earned them a handsome six-figure sum literally three months ago. There was a desire at the time to retain the player, something he bought into also. Did he suspect that Forest Green would be more competitive? Did they throw obscene amounts of money at the problem to make it go away? Now, little over two months into the season, has Noble decided he wants to be back at a ‘proper’ football club playing in front of ‘proper’ football fans? Was his head turned by Notts County this weekend? I recall Jon Nolan being a member of the Lincoln squad for an away trip to Wrexham and within the week he’d requested a loan to that very club. If there was such stringent transfer regulations now, would Liam Noble be stood with a black and white scarf in front of him, smiling happily about being ‘back home’?
It’s all very mystifying to say the least, but be sure of this: if he is available on a free and he hasn’t been tapped up by anyone, then we could do a lot worse than bring him in to press for the number ten role at our club. Along with Christian Doidge’s goals, his assist tally last season was the main reason Forest Green got promoted and (aside from Doidge again) he is by far the best player at the New Lawn (sorry, he’s not there anymore *insert your own smiley face emoji here*). He would be a massive asset to any club in League Two, and if he genuinely wants to be closer to home where is his likely destination? Notts County, Lincoln, Chesterfield, Grimsby and Mansfield are all around 3 hours away from the North East, with Carlisle the closest. Will he rock up at the Cumbrians? Or will he be unveiled on January 1st as a team-mate of Terry Hawkridge?
I know where my money would be if I were a betting man.