Like a badly scripted movie, Liam Noble’s move to Notts County was both predictable and inevitable. The only real surprise is how quickly it has been announced.
Noble was the subject of a £100k bid three months ago, but he signed a new deal with Forest Green, saying at the time: “I’m delighted. There was obviously a lot of speculation over the summer but I am a Forest Green player and happy to be here to go again for another few years. We won at Wembley and I wanted to stay. As soon as I spoke to the chairman and manager about a new deal it was a no brainer to stay because I think the club are going places.”
So far the only place Forest Green have gone is the bottom three, struggling to pick up points with Noble under-performing. His relationship with the fans nose-dived after he heavily criticised them in a radio interview, defending Mark Cooper’s decision to play his son despite a poor run of form. His omission from the match day squad for their clash with Notts County came amidst rumours of a bust-up with Mark Cooper around the time FGR played Swindon. Bust-ups between players and Mark Cooper are not uncommon, it is fairly well-known that he lost the FGR dressing room at least once last season, but Noble seemed to be one of his ‘generals’, trusted and loyal. That image was dashed on Monday when he was released from his contract for ‘personal reasons’. Those personal reasons now seem to be ‘because he’d rather play for Notts County’.
Nobody was surprised at all to learn last night he has signed for Notts County. He’ll train with them and be part of the squad right up until January 1st when he’s available to play. Granted, Nottingham is closer to his native North-East than FGR, but it is still a few hours by car. One can’t help but be a little suspicious of his motives, even though I doubt the full story will ever come out.
Forest Green fans are not happy. One user on their forum said: “Notts County are welcome to a player completely devoid of loyalty who seems completely unaware of the concept of a contract. He’s talented, but I have zero respect for him and hope he fails massively at Notts now. If he’d gone in the summer for a fee, fine. But if you’re so hell-bent on leaving to act like this then DON’T SIGN A NEW CONTRACT and we would at least have got £100k for him. Nottingham isn’t close to Newcastle, and he’s fit enough to pass a medical. He’s a liar, simple as that, everything we’ve heard has been false.”
As a football fan I should be enraged at his disloyalty to Forest Green, but it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch, could it? If it were Accrington or Morecambe, sides with tight budgets who conduct themselves in the correct manner I’d be talking about him being mercenary, but I’m finding it tough to get worked up. This is a club that lose £2.4m a year but claim to be sustainable, this is a club run by a man who has a socialist left-wing background but spends money on his pet project like a true-bred capitalist. This is a club managed by Cooperman, a smug caricature of a manager who found time whilst celebrating his own sides fortuitous play-off win to have a dig at City, the side that did FGR 6-3 on aggregate and won the league at a canter. He blames pitches, players and conditions but never, ever himself. Odious club, dislikeable officials, the only people I feel sorry for are the true FGR fans that followed before the Vince Circus rolled into town. I know they have their league football and at present they’re still regarded as a football fairy tale, but for how long? I suppose they’ll get to play the victim in all this, poor little FGR treated badly by the nasty player. Whatever.
There are no true winners in this debacle, certainly not Forest Green, nor Notts County. Yes they got their man at £100k less than they offered in the summer, but their reputable name has been dragged into the murky situation which is a shame. On Noble’s early season form I don’t think he’s worth a quarter of what they offered, and given the number of attacking players they currently have it will be interesting to see how he fits into the County side in January. Also, I thought County were a bit hard-up for money recently? The situation can’t be that bad can it? They can clearly afford to pay the wages of a player for three months just to ensure he doesn’t talk to anyone else.
He is a good player if he’s on form and playing well, but is he Football League quality? He had a couple of seasons with County, but some FGR fans are commenting on how he looks out of his depth this season. I’d be inclined to think that was more FGR’s tactics and management than Noble’s ability though. He certainly has something to prove now, not least to Forest Green fans who will undoubtedly make him the target of their affections when he visits the New Lawn later in the season.
Here are some further samples of reaction from the FGR message board:
“I now have a very sour taste in my mouth. Totally unprofessional, and good riddance – you have really let us true fans down – I respected you when you were here, but now I despair. Onwards and upwards, we can do without you, you were a shadow of yourself this season, so goodbye.I hope you get what you deserve in life.”
“Sad state of modern football, too much player power, no loyalty, chasing the buck. Yet again club looks amateurish to outside world. But, I believe FGR acted with compassion etc, like any decent person would do. Sadly footballing world is different, dog eat dog, dodgy dealings etc.. Plus point we do look a better team without Nobes. Not interested from 1st match, blatantly thought himself too big for the club.”
“LN and MC having a bust up isn’t a surprise. What is though is we allow the contract to be ripped up so Noble can go to any club he wishes for free. For him to go to Notts County which is hardly on the door step of his family is disappointing. Noble will not just be happy. He’ll be ecstatic when he scores against us and runs straight over to MC to celebrate, making a very public point.”
“The implication did seem to be that he might be taking some time away from football but apparently not. Can’t get into our side because of a ‘medical matter’ and needs to leave to be with his family but then can immediately become a part of another team who are based hours away from his family.”
In a twisted, bitter way this news has put a smile on my face this morning, but only because it happened to Forest Green. As an impartial observer it does look like the club have been royally stitched up by a player who has gone back on his three-year deal within three months which is a really poor show. Oddly though, I won’t lose any sleep over the integrity of the game when it is that lot that suffer.