Teenage Kicks

IT was quite a special day for Mark Noble at Spurs last weekend. His first Premiership start in the draw at White Hart Lane earned the teenage midfielder rave reviews and now he has his sights set on Manchester United this Sunday.

But the 18-year-old Academy graduate is being treated no differently because of his rise into the Hammers first-team, and that is exactly how the down-to-earth midfielder wants it.

"It was a fantastic start for me and even though we drew it felt like a win," enthused Mark.
"One of my pals works with his dad in the tyre business, one of the is an electrician and one is a chippie. They are all West Ham fans and they were all at White Hart Lane.
"They love West Ham as much as I do.They live for the Club. They say to me 'what's it like playing for West Ham and playing against all those players?'
"Then we meet up and start fighting with each other and mucking about. We play ISS Football on the Playstation and I am on the new version.
"They all sub me though when they play as West Ham! When I  first broke through they looked at me in a funny way. They know that I am the same person and they still treat me like I was at school.
"It's just pretty crazy that I am playing for West Ham United.
"My mates haven't asked for my autography and they say when the crowd sing my name they don't say anything and just sit there and be quiet.
"My family home is only a ten minute walk from the ground. I walked home after my debut against Southend. It was strange because I was in my suit and as all the other players were being asked for their autographs I just walked away because no-one knew who I was.
"I walked back with my mates. They all had Hammers tracksuits on and I looked like I just finished a day in the office.
"When I made my debut against Southend my Dad was in an Indian restaurant in Cyprus.
"My dad's mates were winding him up saying I had given a goal away. He was a nervous wreck. I told him it was all good and he was delighted.
"It was his birthday last Saturday and I told him I was playing against Spurs and he was over the moon. But on Sunday he said to me 'You can't keep doing this. My nerves can't stand it!'
"I used to come and watch games at Upton Park. Even when I wasn't at the club I wpuld still come and watch. The club is in my blood.
"The whole aura made me want to be here. I was at Arsenal before that for four years. Good times but I came to West Ham and never looked back.
"I remember going to watch an FA Cup game against Spurs at Upton Park and thinking about the atmosphere."

And should Mark play against Man United this weekend, it will rekindle memories of his first Hammers match.
"I think my first West Ham game was against Manchester United," he revealed. "My Dad bought me a ticket as a birthday present.He wrapped it up in a massive box and I thought it was going to be a massive toy.
"But when I found the ticket I was over the moon. I was about eight years old.
"I feel at home here. If I was in Newcastle for example I would be living in digs, away from my family and it would be hard.
"I've actually just managed to get the money to move out so I left my parents as soon as possible!"

On Sunday, Mark looks set to come up against England wonder-kid turned international star Wayne Rooney. And Mark is well aware of his and United's qualities.

"Rooney has been their best player for the last few games," explained Mark. "United are going through a sticky patch what with Roy Keane leaving and a few bad results.
"They will bounce back though, but they have to come up against us first and hopefully they won't do any bouncing back on Sunday.
"I don't worry about anyone else though. I have no fear. The moment you start worrying then you will get walked all over.
"I have only played one game but I know that already.You have to respect them but on the pitch you have to be your own player and play your own game."