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Gone but not forgotten:
David Noble
Position: Midfielder
From: Arsenal - on loan - August 2001
Record: Played: 8(10) Scored: 1
To: Arsenal - end of loan - April 2002
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: Another midfielder

Of course, none of us has ever spent money unwisely. None of us has ever, for example, decided that a trip to some Northern grot-hole to watch Watford extend an abysmal away record is a higher financial priority than the Council Tax bill that's been propped up by the computer for weeks. None of us has ever cut the week's food budget to accommodate the purchase of a new CD by some band that the NME makes sound far more extraordinary and revolutionary than the disappointing reality. And none of us would've spent upwards of half a million quid on David Noble back in October....

That's a fairly flimsy justification for some rather expensive errors of judgement from the management, obviously. Nevertheless, it does no harm to recall your own mistakes from time to time. Nobody's perfect. The eagerness with which most of us pounced on rumours of an "option to buy" in the terms of David Noble's season-long loan is hard to believe now, as he disappears back to Arsenal with barely a raised eyebrow from those who'd earlier chanted "Sign up, Noble" at the man of the moment. Much as Luca Vialli has been berated for spending too much money on inadequate players, a great many of us - including me - would've rushed to part with a hefty six figure sum for a talented but half-hearted midfielder, given the chance. Yes, another midfielder....

There's no denying that David Noble was briefly brilliant. A creative player with more of a physical presence than his slight frame suggested, his touch was delightful and his reading of the game far more advanced than you would've imagined, given his minimal first team experience. Against Bradford in the Worthington Cup and again at Grimsby, where he scored his only goal, he was a bit of a star.

And then he wasn't. He was missing from the side that travelled up to Bradford...and, to all intents and purposes, he was missing for the rest of the season too. Perhaps a victim of Luca Vialli's sudden realisation that First Division success might rely on more than fancy footwork, the remainder of his appearances were brief, bland and largely pointless. No-one chanted "Sign up, Noble" any longer.

You could blame the manager for squandering such talent, I suppose. Then again, it seems reasonable to suggest that such a talented player ought to have been able to force his way back into the side, particularly when Paolo Vernazza became a long-term injury casualty. The opportunities were numerous enough. None - absolutely none - were taken.

Besides, others had shown hunger and desire when given the chance to impress...and, while Noble grew mouldy in the reserves, they demanded and rightly gained further chances. In Gary Fisken and Jamie Hand, the club has two very young midfielders who've not yet fully defined themselves, not totally grown accustomed to first team football...but their enthusiasm and commitment is obvious, welcome and, frankly, to be expected.

Really, any interest in David Noble's future - bright though it may still be - became academic at some point in November. There are others to concentrate on now.