Mark Noble: I'd love Declan Rice to get another England cap tonight!
Composed, creative, and Claret and Blue through-and-through - a number of phrases you could use to describe both Mark Noble and Declan Rice, West Ham United’s homegrown midfield generals.
The Academy of Football graduates might have made their West Ham debuts some 13 years apart, but for influential skipper Noble, there’s been an undeniable pride in seeing his regular midfield collaborator flourishing in the Premier League and, now, as a fully-fledged international for Gareth Southgate's England.
Having made his debut for the Three Lions in March this year in a UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier against Czech Republic at Wembley Stadium, Rice has since collected two further caps for the national side, including starting in the semi-finals of the inaugural UEFA Nations League Finals this summer against the Netherlands.
With Rice hoping to cement his reputation in the England set-up, Noble is hopeful he’ll witness the three-time Young Hammer of the Year add to his appearance tally when England continue their UEFA Euro 2020 Group A qualification campaign this week.
“I hope [he will start for England against Bulgaria and Kosovo], because he plays for West Ham - and I’d rather he played than anyone else!” Noble said. "I think he’s more than proved how good he is in that position.”
Rice’s full Hammers debut came at St Mary’s Stadium in August 2017, when he made his first appearance alongside the current Hammers skipper.
The same stadium will host England’s game against Kosovo on Tuesday evening, after Bulgaria visit Wembley this afternoon, and Noble is backing the 20-year-old defensive midfielder to showcase the qualities he could bestow upon the Three Lions.
You know exactly what you're going to get from Dec... I hope he gets more caps in the future
He said: “Obviously, it’s nothing to do with me as it’s Gareth’s choice and I don’t see how the England boys train, but you know exactly what you’re going to get from Dec.
“He’s great on the ball, he reads the game so well, he makes so many tackles and he does the stuff that nobody really wants to do, which is great.
“I thoroughly enjoy playing with him and I hope he gets more caps in the future, for sure.”
Noble and Rice both started as West Ham signed off for the current international break on a high, recording back-to-back Premier League wins against Watford and Norwich.
That solid partnership – and the players complimenting one another’s defensive and offensive attributes – has been crucial at the heart of the midfield, according to the captain.
He said: “I think [Rice gives us balance], yeah. The last two games, we’ve played extremely well going forward.
“I said in the week to the players that we were really good going forward against Watford, but we left ourselves a bit open at times for an attacking team and I didn’t like that.
“But on Saturday, we were solid. We limited them to a couple of half-chances.”
Having controlled most of the game against Norwich at London Stadium, Noble has challenged his side to add a clinical streak to future performances, while maintaining their defensive solidity.
“We should have scored six or seven ourselves,” Noble continued, “and that’s what I’m most disappointed about.
“When you have games like that, you need to be ruthless. We weren’t ruthless enough, but we didn’t concede – and, importantly, we got that 2-0 win.”