Noble Quest

YOUNG midfielder Mark Noble is hoping to be involved with the first-team against Norwich City this weekend, as the 17-year-old's impressive rise through the youth team ranks continues at pace.

The East London born Academy graduate made his first-team debut in the Carling Cup against Southend earlier this season, but has fond memories of last season's FA Cup competition after being included on the bench for the win at then Premiership Wolves.

"I have special memories of last season's FA Cup, being on the bench at Wolves," explained Mark, who captained the England Under-18s against Scotland recently. "It was brilliant, because it was the first time I had been involved with the senior team on a matchday and it's an experience I'll never forget.

"Myself and Chris Cohen were on the bench, although Chris had already made his first team debut by that time.

"We were both really young, only just turned 16, so to be there at a Premiership club as Wolves were at the time and watch West Ham go through to the next round was tremendous."

A fanatical Hammers fan, Mark only joined the full-time staff at the Club in 2003 and along with his close friend Chris Cohen has surged through the youth ranks to sign professional forms and make his first-team debut for the Hammers.

Yet, he remains level-headed about his progress and after recovering from a slight injury insists that he can't wait to get out onto a pitch again this weekend, whether it be for the first-team or the Under-18s, who he is still eligible to represent.

"Of course, I really hope that I'm in the squad for the Norwich game," he admitted. "It's a great thrill every time I'm involved with the first-team and to play at Upton Park is fantastic.

 "There are a few injuries to first-team players at the moment, so I'm hopeful that I'll be involved with Alan Pardew's squad, but like the rest of the players I'm just waiting to see.

"But I'll still be pleased to play for the Under-18s this Saturday against Charlton, if that's where I'm picked.

"I've had a slight groin injury, but it wasn't anything serious and I've been back in training this week. Now I'm just desperate to get back playing again."

If he is included in Alan Pardew's first-team plans then going up against Premiership opposition should hold little fear for Mark. He came off the bench in the memorable Carling Cup Third Round clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, and will be no respecter of reputations against top-flight Norwich.

"If I do get to play then I'll just go out, give my all, and play the only way I know how," said Mark. "The Chelsea game was a great experience for me, and maybe I'll get to add to it at Upton Park on Saturday."