Noel Blake had a lengthy spell with Exeter City towards the end of his playing career. He then became manager at a difficult time in the club’s history.
Noel was spotted by Aston Villa playing as a teenager for Sutton Coldfield Town and signed professionally in August 1979. After four first-team outings, and a loan spell at Shrewsbury Town, he moved to Birmingham City. At St Andrews Noel established himself as a first team player making 76 appearances in the league and scoring five goals before departing to Portsmouth in April 1984. At Pompey he enjoyed some of the most successful times of his career and, in 144 league outings, scored 10 goals. This earned Noel a move to Leeds United in July 1988 prior to playing for Stoke City, Bradford City and Dundee.
At Stoke, Noel was a team mate of Peter Fox who had since become manager of Exeter City. Noel duly signed for his old colleague in August 1995 as player-assistant manager and soon made his debut against Darlington. Joining a club that was going through an extremely difficult time after financial woes that had almost forced its closure, Noel was a regular during his first three seasons at St James Park. Playing fewer games from the start of 1998/99 onwards ,Noel was appointed player-manager on the departure of Peter Fox in January 2000. He was to have one half-season, one full-season (in which City finished 19th) and a few weeks of a third season before leaving the club in September 2021. Noel’s final game of a career in which he played over 700 times was against Carlisle on 24 September 2001. .
Noel later returned to Stoke City, one of his former clubs, where he was a successful manager of the youth team before - in February 2007 - being appointed as a FA National Coach working with the England under-16 and under-19 teams. Then, after seven years with the governing body, Noel had a few months at Blackpool as first-team coach before briefly serving as caretaker-manager prior to leaving the club. He has since worked for the Football Association, the Premier League and the League Managers’ Association in various capacities as well as running the Absolute Football Consultancy.
League 147; Cups 14 (161)