What’s another year done for Hammers’ big Frank?

Almost exactly a year after he made his first start for West Ham, Frank Nouble was back for the FA Cup tie against Barnsley last Saturday.

IT WAS one year and one week ago that young striker Frank Nouble burst on to the scene at Upton Park when he was thrown in at the deep end for his first start against mighty Arsenal in the FA Cup third round.

One season later he was back in claret and blue for another FA Cup tie, but in between there have been mixed fortunes for the 19-year-old striker.

He made two more starts for the Hammers – against Aston Villa and Portsmouth last January – but then faded into the background, before going off on loan spells with Swindon Town and West Brom.

This season has been a similar story, but when Nouble was called back from his loan move at Swansea City, he felt that at last he would be given a chance to show what he could do.

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“It’s been good for me,” said the big striker. “I’m a better player now than I was last season and a big reason for that is the loan moves.

“Swansea was good, but I’d rather stay at the club where I am now, work hard and get my chance here.”

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Nouble played six games for the Swans, though only started two of them, but he did manage his first goal in senior football when he struck for the Welsh team at Watford.

Now he is looking to do the same at Upton Park: “Against Barnsley my goal was to get my first Hammer goal, but it wasn’t to be,” said Nouble, who had one glorious chance in the second half after being put in by Victor Obinna, only to fluff his lines.

“I want to get more minutes under my belt. If I play and score, I can show everybody what I can do, which will obviously mean I get more opportunities in the league.”

Nouble was called back early from Swansea to cover for injuries to Freddie Piquionne and Carlton Cole, but their rapid recoveries have meant that, aside from a one minute appearance at Fulham on Boxing Day, he has been forced to wait for his chance.

“Obviously it has been frustrating having to watch the games from the sidelines,” said Nouble. “But I have been training and working hard with the players and the manager has always told me I will get my chances sooner rather than later and I’ve just got to keep working hard.

“Last season was obviously good for me with Gianfranco Zola, and I was itching to play this time round.”

It was ironic that his big chance came once again in the FA Cup and this time it was a better result for both him and the Hammers.

“The FA Cup was where I made my debut last season against Arsenal so it means a lot,” he explained. “It was great when we went 1-0 up, but we gave away the lead that day.

“We were winning 1-0 this time, but we held on and scored again. I was celebrating after we scored the second because I was happy.”

So how far has the former Chelsea player come since his first start a year ago? The striker was pleased with his performance.

“I think I played well,” he said. “Obviously I’ve been itching to play all season and when I knew I was going to play I knew I had to take my opportunity.

“In the second half I ran out of legs a bit, but overall I enjoyed it.”

There is still a rawness about the young striker. He looked and plays a lot like a junior Carlton Cole, but there is definitely an improvement in his confidence since we saw him a year ago. Now he needs to work on his finishing.

“I want to stay and fight for my place, but it is up to the club as well,” he said.

“I have to keep fighting for the chance to play. Obviously there are strikers ahead of me doing well, but I think I showed what I can do today.”

He did and though Nouble may well need to go out on loan again in the near future, just as the likes of Mark Noble, James Tomkins and Freddie Sears returned much better players, it seems that the youngster may well be heading in the same direction.

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