Noble spurred for success


At 20 years old, Mark Noble is the junior figure in the West Ham United first team but the midfielder speaks with a maturity beyond his years.

A polite and well-mannered individual, with a handshake and a hello for everyone he meets, Noble has a special connection with Tottenham Hotspur. He made his first start in claret and blue at White Hart Lane back in November 2005 and, a year ago this week, his sensational performance and then tears of hurt in the wake of the 4-3 home defeat by Spurs is what "kickstarted our season, my season and, if I can say, my career".

He added: "That is where it really kicked off. A lot has happened since then." Noble is not wrong with the club securing survival and now, this season, sitting in tenth place with the potential to move eleven points clear of Tottenham. For all that progress, there is hurt at two big defeats by Champions League contenders in the past seven days. "Now the emotions have gone you can learn from it. I am still young. I can take that on board what to do in them sort of situations and use that for future reference."

Noble has gone from strength to strength since 4 March 2007. An established figure in the West Ham United midfield, he can reflect honestly on events ever since. "We have been solid the whole season and we have always been in every game but we have played two really strong fantastic teams. We ain't been scoring goals and if you let in goals and don't score you are going to get punished and we have done. We know as a side and as players and as a team we can turn it around and Tottenham is probably the best game to do that.

In the last week Noble has had to compete with "some of the best players in the world" from Claude Makelele and Michael Ballack to Steven Gerrard and Javier Mascherano, and he will not let the experience go to waste. He said: "You can learn from every game you play and if you don't learn from every game you play you are never going to improve. I have learnt a lot of things. I have learnt how to lose in a bad way and how to get over it. Hopefully that will help me out in future years to come."

The whole squad sat down to discuss how to put things right after the final whistle at Anfield. Noble admitted "I like to say what I think" but also said he was keen to hear what his senior team-mates had to say. "There are a lot of experienced pros with a lot of experience under their belt - sometimes it is good to sit back and listen to their opinions and what they have said after a game [you have lost] 4-0. Your emotions are everywhere and you tend to say sometimes what you don't mean."

The plan going forward is to "stick together" and rally round for the trip to White Hart Lane. "Tottenham have really improved since [Juande] Ramos has gone there," he added. "They have put another dimension to their game, they are scoring goals and they are one of the best records at home this season. We need to go there and play how we can do and defend how we can do and I am sure it will be a great game to watch.

"It just a fantastic atmosphere and game to play in," Noble continued. "I have played in three and they have all been really tight games and really passionate games and sometimes you get a little bit extra out of yourself. It is a massive game for both sets of fans and players and I am sure everyone is really looking forward to it. As a team we have got to get ourselves together and know that if we play how we can do and put the points on the table we can really push for European places.

"This year's aim was to stay in this league, we had a terrible season last year and we need to improve on that and we have done. We have got the solid foundation now and we need to kick on from here." Noble's understanding of what is required for the team is mirrored by his mature assessment of his own progress. "I have learnt and I need to keep on improving, keep on learning. Hopefully this is a modest season in my career. It has been a good one for me. It ain't over yet and I still want it to get better but I hope it is nowhere near one of the best ones I have."