Noble Dreams

LAST season went by in a blur of dreams coming true for 18-year-old midfielder Mark Noble.

Not only did he celebrate the promotion of boyhood club West Ham United to the Premier League, but the Academy graduate played a significant part in helping Alan Pardew's men get back to the top-flight.

After an all-action full first-team debut in the FA Cup Third Round victory over Norwich City, Mark went on to play 21 times for the senior side last season, including coming off the bench in the Play-off Final triumph at the Millennium Stadium.

Now Mark is hoping to make this season even bigger for himself and the Hammers as he looks forward to doing battle in the Premiership for the first time.

He said: "The team has been strengthened and competiton for places is really high as it should be, because we're in the Premiership now and we want to be able to compete as best we can.

"For me, I will approach it the same as I did last season, knowing that putting in the hard work will hopefully bring rewards on the pitch. I'm still just loving being part of this team, having the chance to play for the Club that I've supported my whole life.

"The manager has told me that I just have to keep my head down, work hard and go from there.

"I know it's been said, but it's a team thing here and if and when we all get our chance, we will make sure we go out there and do our best for the manager and the Club.

"How much I play is of course down to the manager, but I hope to play more games again this season and keep improving as a player."

A lifelong Hammers fan, Mark would be on the terraces of Upton Park, were he not gracing the pitch with a footballing talent that has seen him win England Youth honours in the UEFA European Under-19 Championships over the summer.

Indeed, he would probably be one of the many thousands flocking to Upton Park to cheer on their heroes against Blackburn Rovers this weekend, were he not one of the Hammers heores already.

He said: "We all can't wait for Saturday. Blackburn will be tough opposition, but this is what we all want to do, be tested and play against the best in the Premier League.

"They have some strong players, Robbie Savage gets a lot of criticism in the press but he is one player I would certainly like to play against."

A graduate of the Hammers Youth Academy, Mark is a firm advocate of giving youth its chance. But the midfield starlet has also been impressed with the additions to the squad Alan Pardew has made over the summer.

He said: "Some people will say that myself and some of the younger players had more of a chance to break into the team while we were in the Championship and that there is less a chance now.

"But at the end of the day, If I know I am showing the manager I'm working hard, then I will have every chance to be a part of his plans. It's just fantastic being part of this team and having the opportunity to play for West Ham United in the Premiership.

"There are some good young players coming through. Hogan Ephraim for instance is just one of many and if they keep working at their game, then there's no reason why they can't still make that first-team breakthrough this season."

Noble has missed out on much of the Hammers pre-season programme because of England duty, only returning to the fold for the final two friendly games against ADO Den Haag and CA Osasuna. But the energetic midfielder's absence has certainly not affected his fitness and he believes the international experience will improve him as a player.

Mark explained: "It was three weeks and five games with England and although we were disappointed about losing in the Final, it was tremendous to be part of the squad. I feel the experience will hopefully stand me in good stead for playing against and with some of the best players in the Premiership this season.

"The lads might have been ahead of me in some areas of pre-season work, but I have been training and playing while with England and that's helped to keep up my fitness.

"Everyone is looking really sharp and the attitude and the excitment in training is just incredible.

"For me, it's been a dream having seen West Ham win promotion. Although I'm a player, I'm also still a fan and I know exactly what it means to see this Club playing in the Premiership again, and how everyone is so excited as we count down to the Blackburn Rovers game."