Noble pride at captaincy

It was a proud evening for West Ham United at stadium:mk on Monday and in particular Mark Noble as he was chosen to lead England Under-21s for the first time.

Noble was handed the armband by coach Stuart Pearce and he did not disappoint with an inspired display in the centre of midfield during the 7-0 win over Azerbaijan. The 22-year-old saw plenty of the ball during a 60 minute run-out and was a lick of paint away from scoring as the U21s warmed up for the UEFA European Championship in Sweden in style.

"With the game we played and the scoreline it meant it was a really enjoyable game to play in with the tournament coming up," Noble said. "I felt really good. They weren't the best opposition but you've got to beat what is put in front of you and we have done that with ease and we are raring to go."

Noble's form in the match will no doubt have given Pearce food for thought with regular captain Nedum Onuoha and fellow Manchester City defender Micah Richards still to come back from injury, and the Academy graduate is certainly taking nothing for granted.

"Nedum is captain normally so I'm just happy playing. If I'm captain or not I'll still put in the same kind of performance."

The Canning Town-born Noble was taken off 15 minutes after the re-start to rest his weary legs and afterwards he admitted he was grateful for the break.

"I've played a lot of football this season and I think the manager understood that. We've trained really hard and he just wanted to give everyone a look. I think we were 4-0 up at the time so it was nice just to come off, have a shower and rest the legs."

Noble and his team-mates are enjoying the second of two days at home with their families before heading out to Gothenburg for final preparations for the tournament, which begins on Monday with a game against Finland in Halmstad.

"We've been training hard in Spain and it has really been put on well. But after a long, hard season with West Ham it's good to get away and hopefully I'll come back with a medal."