Noble marks milestone

Mark Noble's superbly-taken goal at Ewood Park on Saturday came at a particularly happy time both professionally and personally.

On the pitch, the midfielder marked his 100th appearance in claret and blue with a goal against Blackburn and has again been named in Stuart Pearce's England Under-21 squad. Off it, Noble is celebrating too after becoming a father for the first time earlier this month. With so much going on, it is easy to forget that Noble is still only 21-years-old.

"Someone told me that I was the longest-serving player at West Ham now and I am only 21," Noble said. "It is quite a nice thing to get on the scoresheet in my 100th game and I am very happy with that, although I am a little bit disappointed that we didn't came away with the three points."


Noble scored his fifth goal of the season after starting and finishing a sweeping West Ham United move that  began inside their own half and also involved Luis Boa Morte and Diego Tristan.

"I have not seen it yet but someone else said to me 'What a finish'. It was without outside of my boot. I lost the ball down this end and I was so desperate to get it back that I won it and it seemed like I was running forward forever. It was a great move after Luis made a good run and I managed to put him though. He cut the ball back for Diego and he could not get a shot in so he laid it off to me and to be fair it was the only option I had on to try and do that. It comes off once in 50 attempts and it did," Noble said.

It was a goal similar in style to that of Carlton Cole's winner at Wigan Athletic earlier this month and Noble believes the two strikes are indicative of the style of football Gianfranco Zola is trying to get his team to play.

"I think that a lot of people are commenting on the way that we are playing and scoring goals recently and our passing. In the second half we will say that we got bombarded with throw ins and free-kicks, they threw everything at us but we stood firm and Scotty [Scott Parker], Specs [Jonathan Spector], and [James] Tomkins all made some unbelievable blocks. That will be needed going into the end of the season."

Noble demonstrated his adaptability by slotting into a central midfield role as Zola switched to a 4-3-2-1 formation for the game, after wide-man Savio was ruled out with a knee injury.

"I was playing more central today and I really liked that. Obviously with the injuries we have had and the other things I have had to play a few different roles. I was playing out of position sometimes and I just stuck with it and the hard work paid off. It is nice to get on the scoresheet and it is nice to go away and get a point."

The Canning Town-born youngster has had a successful season thus far, with the five goals scored nearly doubling his total goal haul for the Hammers, which now at stands at eleven. Noble feels a lot of the credit for his improvement must go to his Italian manager.

"When you have got respect for a manager like Zola, you will [play anywhere for him]. He treats you the right way and that is why I am happy to do that. I felt really comfortable and thought I was playing as I know I can play.

"The manager always says that he will keep faith in me. I started off so well then I got a calf injury. Then I started playing well and hit a dip in form, and I don't know what caused that. It happens to players. Hopefully I am starting to pick up again for the rest of the season."

Noble played his part in resilient defensive display as the home side repeatedly propelled long balls into the West Ham penalty area and, bar Keith Andrews' strike seven minutes after half-time, the Hammers stood strong. The West Ham No16 believes that kind of dogged performance demonstrates how the team are evolving this season and it could help lay the foundations for a UEFA Europa League place come the end of the campaign.

"Maybe six months ago we would have lost that game. So it shows that we are determined and we can score goals and get points. If we play the way we are, Coley [Carlton Cole] will be back next time which is important, and if we can carry on I am sure that we will sit firmly in seventh at the end of the season."

For now, though, Noble must meet up with his international team-mates again as the Under-21s continue their preparations for the UEFA European Under-21 finals in Sweden this summer with two friendlies against Norway and France over the coming ten days.