West Ham skipper looks to take the club to the next level
PUBLISHED: 20:17 12 August 2016
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Hammers skipper Mark Noble is loving the new stadium
West Ham captain Mark Noble was in mid-sentence when he stopped suddenly, looked off into the distance, waved and gave out a little chuckle.
“That was Buffon,” he said with a sheepish grin. “It is a different world for us here.”
It certainly is. When one of the world’s greatest ever goalkeepers, a hero of Juventus and Italy, knows who you are and stops to give you a wave, then perhaps you know that yourself and West Ham have moved up a league in world football.
“This is the level that we want to take the club to,” said Noble following the Betway Cup clash with the mighty Italians.
“Don’t get me wrong, it is going to take a while because these have won their league for the last five years.
“When you go and spend £78m on a striker, it is a different league to us, let me tell you. But we have moved to a new stadium and we will be generating more money, so we look to the future.”
The 29-year-old is as proud as any West Ham fan as the club moves into its new home.
“It is great here, especially after Thursday night which was a very important game for us,” he added.
“The performance out in Slovenia wasn’t good enough and we had to improve and we certainly did that.
“These two games have been really good workouts before Chelsea next Monday and we have also got a bit of practice here, before we take on Bournemouth in the first game.”
Noble is excited about the new season, although he knows that they have already had a couple of knocks to their first-team squad.
“We have had some downs because we have lost Manuel Lanzini and Aaron Cresswell for the opening games which is a big miss for us,” he said.
“We have gained some good players so we just need to dig in for training this week and then look forward to that first game.
“The new boys look great. It is partly my job to bed them in and they have fully taken to the club, they are enjoying the new stadium and are fully looking forward to the new season.”
Pre-seasons can certainly be misleading as a man with the experience of Noble knows only too well.
“You don’t really know until you start playing for points,” he continued. “I have been through pre-seasons where we have lost every game and then started really well and seasons where we won all our games, like under Avram Grant, and then it went downhill from there.
“We are just looking forward to it now. It is going to be tough, but we know that we are good enough to cope with the best teams in the Premier League.”
It has been a very different pre-season campaign for the Hammers. They went on tour to the United States and then almost straight away to Austria, before embarking on Europa League football in Slovenia.
So with no trips to the likes of Colchester, Dagenham & Redbridge and Southend United, has it been a better preparation for the Premier League campaign?
“America was fantastic,” said the skipper. “Then it was on to Austria which was in the middle of nowhere where we trained and worked hard.
“I think we went to Slovenia a little head tired really, the lads wanted to get back home and sleep in their own beds, but we came back from there and I thought we were tremendous on Thursday night. Domzale weren’t a bad side, they played some nice football, but now our heads are on the Chelsea game.”
So how well can West Ham do this season?
Noble hesitated and then said: “I don’t know. It is hard to say. We need a few players still. We have a lot of youngsters here who are good, but who have no experience yet.
“For me, I just want to keep on where I left off from last season. I had my best year in West Ham colours last season for sure.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it and the added bonus of leading the team and playing with some top, top players. If we can add to that then we have every chance of doing well.”
West Ham have moved to sign left-back Arthur Masuaku from Olympiakos this week, as well as striker Andre Ayew, but no doubt Noble wants to see a couple more players to come in before the transfer window shuts.
He should know, he has seen it all before, but nothing has quite prepared him for a huge stadium, brimming with West Ham fans and the likes of Gianluigi Buffon giving him a wave.