Noble called for U21 duty

Mark Noble has been named in the England squad to face the Republic of Ireland in a European Under-21 Championship qualifier in Southampton next Tuesday.

The 20-year-old received the news after scoring the crucial winning goal in the 1-0 victory against Liverpool last night. When asked about his senior national-team aspirations, he admitted his hopes of eventually breaking through but is quite content for now with helping the Young Lions emulate last summer's feat when they reached the semi-finals of the continental competition.

"Obviously it is somewhere in the back of my mind but I am concentrating on club football at the minute," said Noble, who has scored three goals in this U21 campaign including two against the Irish in the previous meeting on 16 October. "We have got an important game coming up for the 21s, a qualifying game. That is probably the most important thing and I will just keep playing my football and doing as well as I can. If it happens it happens."

Stuart Pearce's Under-21 side are in a commanding position as they look to reach the play-offs for the eight-nation finals in 2009, which will be played in Sweden. England are leading the way in Group 3 with 16 points from six games, six ahead of nearest rivals Portugal who have a game in hand. The two nations meet in England's final qualifier on 5 September with only the group winners and four best runners-up from the ten sections guaranteed a play-off place.

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