Mark Noble: You’ll see passion and pride oozing from the players
Like virtually everyone with at least a passing interest in English football, Mark Noble is relishing the return of Jose Mourinho to the Premier League.
The West Ham United captain admitted to being surprised by Tottenham Hotspur’s decision to end Mauricio Pochettino’s five-and-a-half year reign and replace him with the Portuguese in midweek.
Mourinho’s third appointment in this country will kick-off in style on Saturday lunchtime at London Stadium. There, Noble and his teammates in Claret and Blue will have plenty of motivation to get one over the ‘Special One’, with a six-match winless run to put to an end and both three important points and derby-day bragging rights at stake.
For me, it’s the perfect game for us after the run we’ve been on because we know we’ll be together – the fans and the players
“I thought nothing could shock me in football after all these years, but this week’s events in north London have done just that!” the No16 wrote in his weekly Evening Standard column.
“I was surprised Mauricio Pochettino was replaced, just a few months after leading Spurs to the UEFA Champions League final, and I was surprised again when Jose Mourinho was appointed as his replacement.
“I do think it’s a good appointment though. I love Jose Mourinho as a manager and the bottom line for me is his CV and the titles teams have won under his management.
“I’ve enjoyed my battles with his teams down the years and we’ve got the better of them a couple of times, including our win over Manchester United here last season, and I’m obviously hoping we can ruin his debut as Spurs manager this afternoon, too.”
As a lifelong Hammer born and raised in Canning Town by a West Ham-supporting family, Noble knows better than anyone in Manuel Pellegrini’s squad just how important Saturday’s game is to his fellow fans.
And, having repeatedly drummed that message into his teammates in the dressing room in recent days, he is expecting the Irons to rise to the occasion come 12.30pm on Saturday.
“Whoever is in the dugout, I believe you’ll see the passion and pride oozing from both sets of players,” he forecast. “For me, it’s the perfect game for us after the run we’ve been on because we know we’ll be together – the fans and the players. I hope the atmosphere is incredible and that our players can be inspired by the occasion.
“I’m hopeful of playing despite the ankle injury I picked up against Burnley. I thought at the time it could be serious but after all the ice and a scan, it’s thankfully not that bad and this is one match I don’t want to miss.”