Mark Noble is raring to go ahead of the most important week of West Ham United’s 2015/16 season so far.
Noble captained the Hammers during their final pre-season friendly game on Sunday - a 2-1 defeat at home to Werder Bremen in the Betway Cup.
The competitive football now comes thick and fast, though, with a trip to Romania to face AFC Astra in a UEFA Europa League qualification game on Thursday before the much-anticipated Barclays Premier League season gets underway with a trip to Arsenal on Sunday.
“We’re pretty fit and strong and we’re ready to get going,” Noble said. “We’ve picked up a few injuries along the way but we’ve got the squad to cope with it so we just need to look after the ones that are fit and get back the ones that aren’t fit and then concentrate on the next two games to come.
“It’s not ideal travelling to Romania three days before the season start but we’ve got to deal with it.”
The Hammers’ pre-season has been an action-packed adventure with plenty of talking points, not least the penalty shoot-out win in Malta that saw Slaven Bilic’s side set up Thursday’s third qualifying tie with Astra.
The volume of games has thrown up a few new injury concerns but Noble is confident that absentees including Winston Reid, Aaron Cresswell, Matt Jarvis and Kevin Nolan will be back and raring to go before long, whether that be in Romania or north London on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t say we were disappointed with the result against Werder Bremen, the pre-season results don’t really matter. Having said that, nobody likes to lose as we’re all professionals.
“We lost a couple to injury in the run up to last Thursday’s game at home to Astra but I’m sure we’ll get them back soon. We then have to travel to Romania on Wednesday morning to play Astra the following day and then Arsenal on Sunday for the big one, which we’re all looking forward to.
“We’ve got good enough players to go to Romania and win the game comfortably. What the manager does about the team I don’t know as we’ve got Arsenal on Sunday so what team he picks is down to him. I’m looking forward to both games - I enjoy playing football so of course I’m looking forward to playing.”
As well as wearing the captain’s armband for the past two games, Noble proudly carries the mantle of being the Hammers’ longest-serving player. Having been around the block and seen a number of different managers and styles since his debut in 2004, he knows it is down to the playing squad to adapt to new era under Bilic as quickly as possible.
“It’s been different but you’ve got to adapt. I’ve played under six managers at West Ham alone and you need to learn to adapt.
“The training has been different. You need to get used to life to the new regime. We’ll see the test of character we have in the first four or five games in the new season.
“We have to stay positive, it’s the best league in the world to play in and we cannot wait to kick off.”