Penalty king backs Nobes

West Ham United great Ray Stewart has given Mark Noble his full support should he be called upon to take a penalty at the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship.

Noble will play a major role for England at this summer's showpiece, starting with Monday evening's match against Finland that gets the finals under way in Sweden. One of only four survivors from the 2007 edition when he scored twice from the spot as the Young Lions lost 13-12 on penalties in the semi-finals to the Netherlands, Noble may be called upon again to step up either in open play or potentially in the knockout stages.


However, the 22-year-old heads into the finals on the back of two successive penalty misses for his club in home matches against Hull City and Chelsea, the latter when his placed effort was superbly saved by Petr Cech to ensure the visitors a 1-0 derby success. Stewart, who "only missed a few" during a playing career that saw him score 76 times from the spot, said the best advice for Noble was simply to quickly make it third time lucky.

"I saw his misses," he told WHUTV. "You look at these situations and you put yourself back in their shoes. I felt for Noble at the time he missed. It is nerve-wracking [taking penalties]. I felt the pressure on him and it is not nice when you miss.

"Mark knows himself what to do. You have just got to keep taking them and he will score the next one probably and build his confidence up. If you don't take them you don't miss them. I am sure he will have the same confidence taking the next one as he has his first one and it will come back."

Analysing the miss against Chelsea when Noble went for precision rather than pace, Stewart said: "He has opened his body up and the goalkeeper has read it and made the save. If you hit them with power and accuracy nine out of ten you are going to score. The only one I hit with the sidefoot was probably the [1981] League Cup final against [Liverpool's] Ray Clemence.

"I sent him the wrong way. I don't know why I did it but I changed my mind in the run-up. I was a confident guy at the time. Football is all about confidence."

Should Noble take on the responsibility for his country during the finals, one Scottish supporter will have full faith that he will hold his nerve when it matters most.