West Ham’s Noble comes out of the shadows to be the star

Hammers midfielder Mark Noble put in a Scott Parker-like performance for West Ham at Portsmouth on Saturday

�West Ham midfielder Mark Noble showed on Saturday at Portsmouth that he has the ability to be an accomplished Premier League player.

There were many who said that the England under-21 international lived firmly in the shadow of Scott Parker when he was at Upton Park. And there were those who suggested that the arrival of Kevin Nolan would plunge Noble back into the gloom.

But while Nolan’s form has been inconsistent, the 24-year-old has shown that he can adapt to a new role and play a vital role in the Hammers’ promotion push.

“To be honest I am really happy with my form,” said Noble after his penalty was enough to earn West Ham all three points in a 1-0 win at Fratton Park.

“I spoke to the manager the other day and obviously when he first came he was asking me to play in a way that was a little different to the way I have played for the last few years.”

That role is largely the one played by Parker when he was at the club. While Papa Bouba Diop provides cover in front of the back four, Noble is the link man of the midfield.

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Never was that more evident than at Pompey on Saturday, especially in the second half.

He was the support for the wide men, always providing an outlet for them, while he also prompted the pace of the West Ham attacks as they looked to pass the ball about against 10-man Portsmouth.

“I am used to that new role now and I am really enjoying my football, enjoying playing with the lads and enjoying the role I have got in the team,” he said.

“It is a nice feeling going home a lot of the weeks winning, because we haven’t done that for a few years!”

Noble certainly knows that as well as any other Hammers fan. The Canning Town-born West Ham supporter is the longest serving player, having chalked up just four short of 200 appearances for the club.

This season he has notched four goals, all from the penalty spot and it is a role that seems to give him confidence.

“Obviously if you put a lot of pace on the penalty and it is at a height that the keeper doesn’t like, then he is always going to struggle with it,” explained Noble.

“I don’t want to talk too much about it because I don’t want to jinx myself, but when we get one, both me and the boys know who is taking it and may they keep coming.”

Noble’s penalty proved the difference between the two teams on Saturday, but the midfielder felt that the gap between the two sides was much wider.

“I thought we started really well and got into them and played like a proper team,” said Noble. “They had five or six corners towards the end of the first half and got back into the game a bit, but you are always going to get that away from home because teams press you more and they are going to give that extra 10 per cent to try and beat us.

“We rode that storm, came out in the second half and they obviously had a man sent off and from then on it was a pretty easy.”

Noble was rested last week and in his absence West Ham not only went out of the FA Cup, they also saw Sam Baldock miss a penalty.

But it seems that the weekend off helped recharge the batteries of the midfielder.

“The manager pulled me in and said you are going to have the weekend off. I had covered a lot of ground and had played two games in three days, so he said I could spend it with my family and be ready for the Portsmouth game,” he said.

“We got the win so I am happy now as you can see, it worked a treat.”

It certainly did. Noble seemed to cover every blade of the Fratton Park grass and now he is looking for the team to go on a good run.

“You have to get back-to-back wins or go on a run in this league if you want to break away,” he said. “Obviously we have seen Middlesbrough losing and Cardiff only drawing so we have a little cushion again, but as we have seen, we had a little cushion before and lost it, but we are determined this time to stay strong and keep pushing.

“As long as we all stick together – the fans, the players the staff have all been fantastic and as long as that continues, I have no doubt where we are going to end up.”

And with Noble in this sort of form, you can’t really argue with that scenario.

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