Hammer Noble is fighting for his place

West Ham midfielder Mark Noble is back to his best and determined to hold on to his place in the starting line-up.

WHEN West Ham boss Avram Grant landed the services of midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, it was understood that the team was going to be built around him and Scott Parker.

Injury to the German on international duty has meant that we still haven’t seen him in claret and blue in a competitive game, but in his absence, another player has stepped into the breach and shown that he is determined to hang on to his place in the starting line-up.

Last season was a huge disappointment for Canning Town-born Mark Noble, who looked strangely off the pace for much of it, but for West Ham’s longest serving player, he has suddenly found his form.

“I am enjoying football at the moment, I’m looking forward to every game and I just want to keep improving,” said the 23-year-old who has now played 145 games for the club he has supported all his life.

Last week he was excellent against Spurs, against Fulham he was awarded the man of the match award after a swashbuckling display which almost ended in him scoring the winner in injury time.

It wasn’t always so positive for Noble though as he freely admits: “I had a spell where I lost a little bit of confidence,” he said. “I wasn’t playing to my best and was out of position.

Most Read

“I feel that I am playing in position now and I’m slowly getting better.”

So has new boss Avram Grant asked him to play in a different way to Gianfranco Zola? It seems that it is more a question of who he is playing with.

“He has just told me to got out and play my game,” said Noble. “I’m playing in the centre of midfield which is where I want to play and it’s nice playing with Scott Parker, we know how each other plays, so I feel like we are keeping the ball and doing well.

“We are controlling matches, whereas two or three weeks ago, we were just sort of off the cuff.”

The proof of that was in the pudding on Saturday as despite a quality performance from a well-organised Fulham side, Noble and Parker were able to force their team back into the match.

“We came back today after going 1-0 down, two or three weeks ago we would have crumbled, but we aren’t doing that now,” said the midfielder. “We are playing together and sticking together as a team.”

Noble admits that West Ham made a disappointing start to the season, but now he sees nothing but positives.

“I think it is just a case of getting to know each other, getting to know how the manager wants us to play and gelling together through playing games.

“We are looking forward to matches every week now because we know we can go out and win games.”

One thing that Noble may not be looking forward to is the return to fitness of Hitzlsperger as he may be the one to make way for the German.

Noble will not give his place up easily though: “You have to have competition in clubs, otherwise you get sloppy,” he said positively, “Thomas is a fantastic player we all know that, but I will fight tooth and nail for my place in the team.”

We would expect nothing more from a player who is West Ham through and through.