HAVING missed out on a place in the starting line-up against Derby, Mark Noble settled onto the substitutes bench with the advice of Chris Powell still in his head.
"He told me to make sure I was properly prepared to come on," revealed Mark. "He said that anything could happen and that I'd certainly be involved some time during the game."
But little did Mark, Chris, Alan Pardew or the unfortunate Gavin Williams know just how soon the 17-year-old England Youth international would be needed.
Just seven minutes had elapsed when Williams went down with an ankle injury, and Noble was summoned from the touchline by Alan Pardew to replace the unlucky Welshman.
"The manager just told me to get involved and play the way I normally do," continued Noble, who entered the action to a thunderous reception from his hometown crowd.
Get involved he certainly did. Showing tenacity and a maturity well beyond his years, Noble dominated the midfield and was one of West Ham United's best players on an otherwise disappointing day.
"It was great to come on," beamed Mark. "I was really pleased with the reception I got, it encouraged me and gave me the confidence to go out and really get stuck in.
"To be honest, I couldn't believe that I got my chance so early. I was hoping that I'd get my chance at some point during the game, but it was a bit of a shock to be needed so early.
"Obviously it was really disappointing to lose Gavin, but I just went out, tried as hard as a I possibly could and made the most of my chance.
"Definitely the highlight of my day was to come on for my first League game at Upton Park. But the result wasn't good enough and it was disappointing for the fans.
"We had a few chances during the game, but it wasn't a good performance and we need to pick ourselves up now for a tough FA Cup tie against Sheffield United this weekend."
Mark, who made his full debut for the Club against Norwich, would love to progress to the Fifth Round with a win over the Blades at Upton Park.
"The FA Cup is a special competition," he confessed. "It was a dream debut against Norwich. The atmosphere was great and to beat a Premiership team was a massive experience for me.
"I still can't believe sometimes that I'm playing in the West Ham United first-team. My family live just around the corner from the ground, and everyone's proud to see me doing well.
"I think I've done okay since coming into the senior side, but there's a lot to learn and it's just a great opportunity to play alongside the likes of Teddy Sheringham and Sergei Rebrov every week.
"The Cup will be a good opportunity for us to bounce back after the defeat at Derby. We know that we can beat Sheffield United, and we've got a bit of a point to prove after they beat us 2-0 at Upton Park in the League.
"I don't know whether I'll start the game. Obviously I'd love to be involved, but we'll just see what happens this week.
"It'll be a great cup-tie and hopefully we can use it to get a solid win under our belts before we get back to the League."
Mark's Early Start