Ivorian intrigue for Nouble

Frank Nouble will take a break from working hard for the new season to watch Ivory Coast take on Italy in a major international at the Boleyn Ground on Tuesday.

The 18-year-old has Ivorian parents and knows his relatives back in his homeland will all be tuned in to see the match. "It is good to see the country from where my family are from in action at Upton Park," he said. "Obviously I was supporting them at the World Cup as well as England so it is great that they are coming to play at West Ham.

"I will go and watch and it will be nice to see the stars from my family's country play live. My dad is definitely coming along to watch as well. I have been to the Ivory Coast and it was nice to be there. They watch the Premier League a lot and I have had a few good reports in the press over there.

"It should be a good game. Italy didn't do too well at the World Cup and Ivory Coast had a tough group but there is no doubt that they are both good sides. I am expecting a good spectacle and a few goals would be nice."

Nouble knows former club-mates Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba from his Chelsea days. "I am in contact with Salomon and I will say hello to him. They are all good players and I just hope it is a good game for all the fans that are coming along."

While south Londoner Nouble is proud of his roots, he is firmly in the England system and was honoured to represent his country at this summer's UEFA European Under-19 Championship. He played every minute of the Young Lions' four games, scoring two goals, before Spain proved too strong in the semi-finals.

"It was a good standard of football for me to start my season with," added Nouble. "I definitely enjoyed it and it was good to get on the score-sheet. The experience was good for me, even losing to Spain. It just makes you want to work harder and get stronger. I want to be involved the next time the opportunity comes along. It is all about becoming a better player."

As well as honing his striking skills, the youngest player in Avram Grant's first-team squad was able to push his fitness to the limit in readiness for the club campaign to come. "It helped me for what I had to do when coming back to West Ham. I feel strong and quick. I played every game. I was a bit tired but it was a good tiredness.

"It is good to be back into the club. I am feeling my way back in. I played half a game for the reserves on Saturday which will help me."

Looking to the weekend, Nouble would love to be involved for the big Barclays Premier League kick-off away to Aston Villa - especially as that was the scene for his first start back in January when he gave James Collins and Richard Dunne a torrid time in a goalless draw.

"That was a good game for me," Nouble said. "I was so happy that I got my chance to start and i think I did well. I got some good reports. It would be good to go back there and hopefully I might get a chance to be involved in the squad.

"The manager is assessing the squad. I have got to keep working as you never know when he is watching. My target is this year to get as many minutes as I can, be it here or if I go out on loan.

"Last year was an introduction but now I have to add the playing time and experience. As long as I am progressing and improving that is the main thing. I am still only 18 but feel part of the group and am hungry to do well."