Noble Ambition

Young Mark Noble is back from an enforced spell on the sidelines and aiming to enjoy another taste of the Premiership soon.

Since recovering from a nasty bout of bronchitis that ruled him out over the Christmas period, Mark has made two appearances for the reserves, including an energetic performance in Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Portsmouth at Upton Park.

Now the 18-year-old midfielder is hoping to win a first-team recall, following his brief run in Alan Pardew's side at the end of November, when he stepped in for the injured Nigel Reo-Coker and produced impressive displays against the likes of Tottenham and Manchester United.

"I was quite ill for a couple of weeks and it set me back for a little while," says Mark, "so it's nice to be playing again and hopefully I can put myself back in the first team picture soon.

"I had a good little spell in the side, but then had to drop out, and it's hard to get yourself back in the team when you've missed a few weeks.

"The team are playing well and winning at the moment, so it looks like I'll have to be patient, but I'm still only 18 and I've got plenty of time on my side."

For now, Mark is trying his hardest to impress Alan Pardew by standing out at reserve team level and, although he admits that aim is tougher than it might sound, he is just happy to be back out on the pitch again.

"It can be difficult playing reserve team football," says the England under-19 international, "because it's often a mixed-up team with different players every week, and it's really about building your fitness and trying to make an impression.

"And any player will agree that you don't get the same buzz that comes with playing for the first team in front of a big crowd - that's only natural.

"The two games have been good for me, though, and I'm happy just to be back playing again. My general fitness is okay, I just need to play matches, and I am happy to do that in the reserves."

It's now just over a year since Mark burst on the first-team scene at Upton Park and, having enjoyed a memorable 12 months, he is eager to continue his tremendous progress.

"The year has gone so quickly, it's unbelievable," he says. "It's been fantastic, though, I've made my first team debut for West Ham, played at the Millennium Stadium when we won promotion, and then made my Premiership debut.

"It really has been a dream come true for me, and hopefully 2006 will be an even better year."