Cup connection inspires Noble

Mark Noble already has a special connection with the FA Cup and cannot wait for West Ham United to get started on the road to Wembley this weekend.

The 20-year-old midfielder made his first-ever start for the club in the competition - a 1-0 third-round win at Norwich City on 8 January 2005 - and followed that up last season with his first goal at the same stage against Brighton and Hove Albion, pouncing on a Carlos Tevez knockdown to fire in a shot from 18 yards.

Aside from that notable contribution on 6 January 2007, the England Under-21 international was voted man of the match in a 3-0 victory. It was a clear statement of what the young midfielder was capable of and surely led to Alan Curbishley having confidence in the youngster for the crucial final ten games of the season.

"I scored my first goal in the FA Cup and it would be nice to get another on Saturday," Noble said as he looked forward to the visit of Manchester City. "But the most important thing is to win and get through to the next stage. If we can do that I am sure we will be happy. It is a great cup to have a run in - it gets all the fans going and it is something to look forward to."

Noble is thoroughly enjoying being back in the starting eleven having had a brief spell on the sidelines following a hernia operation. After being on the bench for the previous three fixtures, he was delighted to figure from the off in the 2-1 win and 2-0 loss against Manchester United and Arsenal respectively. "It is nice to be back in the team," he said.

"To come back in against Man U and Arsenal is a big ask but I enjoyed it. I am happy with my performances but we have got to crack on - we have got a big game on Saturday. That is the main thing we have to look forward to now."

Noble was part of the team that went down 2-0 to City at home on the first day of the season, and he is well aware "they are doing really well" under Sven-Goran Eriksson. However, he expects the home side to be a stronger proposition this time around. "We nicked a great win against Man U at home so we are trying to take that performance into the next home game on Saturday. We will look to get into them and really crack on.

"It will be nice to have a little run in the cup. We have also got to concentrate on the league as well. We are tenth and we have a good chance to push on so it is all looking well for us at the minute."