Noble's Growing Pains

AFTER making 21 appearances last season, including cameos in all three of the Hammers Play-off fixtures, Mark Noble has found first team opportunities more limited so far this season.

With the recent injury to Nigel Reo-Coker however, the 18-year-old has stepped into the Premier League frame at last, performing admirably in four Premiership starts away to Spurs, Birmingham and Blackburn, and at home to Manchester United.

The England under-19 international has not featured in the last two games, but it's hard to remember that this time last year Mark only had two Carling Cup appearances under his belt.

"Obviously I'm buzzing," said the midfield star. "Nigel's injury gave me a chance so I've come in for a few games, I'm just hoping to stay involved, and that the team can push on.

"I've found it fine coming into the Premiership. I didn't play against Everton, but the boys were brilliant and they played well despite the result against Newcastle. Every game in this league is a tough one and we've just got to keep grinding results out.

"We conceded some harsh goals against Blackburn and as well against Newcastle, which wasn't the best, but we've got a great team spirit here, and if we keep going we'll finish high up the table."

That optimism runs deep through Chadwell Heath, but everybody knows that the rewards on the pitch stem from the effort at training.

For Mark though, it's a case of growing as a player and a person, which is something he takes in his stride with his down to earth attitude. Luckily there is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom for him to draw upon as a young professional learning his trade at Upton Park.

"We've been working the same all season really," he explained. "Hard work out on the training field and then everybody's got their own individual stuff to do.

"The gaffer talks to me and help's me with my game as well as helping me to grow.

"There's loads of senior pro's here as well - Shaun Newton, Teddy, Christian, they all talk to you, try to help you improve your game, because they know I'm so young, so I've got to just keep working to become a better player.

"I just want to get another couple of games under my belt and push on after Christmas and hopefully I can get back into the team.

"Christmas and New Year bring the games thick and fast, so hopefully there will be another chance for me during that time where I can push on back into the side."