Noble's cause for optimism

Mark Noble is relishing his role at the heart of West Ham United's new three-man midfield.

The lifelong Hammers fan has lined up alongside Scott Parker and Thomas Hitzlsperger regularly in pre-season, doing so again to good effect in Saturday's 1-0 friendly success at Ipswich Town.

That victory made it five wins from five matches this summer for Avram Grant's squad, with just one goal conceded.

Noble told WHUTV that things are shaping up well ahead of the 2010/11 Barclays Premier League opener at Aston Villa on Saturday 14 August.

"It's not gone too bad. We know we've got six tough games from the start of the season and I think win five out of five in that run then we'll all be happy.

"It's good. We're on the same wavelength which means we pass well and play a bit of football. These pre-season games are always tough as you try to get your fitness and that, but a win is a win and a clean sheet is a clean sheet, so we're happy."

Playing as a central striker in a three-man attack, Carlton Cole has netted four goals in five matches in pre-season, and Noble believes his teammate has benefitted from his summer break.

"I think he's had the summer off with not being involved with England and it's done him the world of good. He's come back looking well and I think if we can keep him fit and keep the others fit then I think we'll be OK."

Aside from Cole, Hitzlsperger has been in fine form since joining the club in June, while France forward Frederic Piquionne and Mexico winger Pablo Barrera both made encouraging debuts at Portman Road.

"We've made three good signings and we're going to need them because it is a long, tough season. Hopefully if we can keep everyone fit and everyone fighting for their position then it can be a good season for us."