Bubble bursts for Mark
FOR all the hype that Mark Noble would recreate the past glories of the last West Ham United player to captain his country to victory in the final of a major tournament, there was only sobering reality to embrace, writes NEIL TRAINIS. Rather than resuscit
FOR all the hype that Mark Noble would recreate the past glories of the last West Ham United player to captain his country to victory in the final of a major tournament, there was only sobering reality to embrace, writes NEIL TRAINIS.
Rather than resuscitating the memory of Bobby Moore, who was lifted up on to the shoulders of his red-shirted team-mates on that sun-baked World Cup Final afternoon at Wembley 43 years ago, the body language of those with three lions emblazened on their chests this time round betrayed demoralisation.
The under-21 European Championship Final was an occasion when those in red triumphed once more but the rapturous celebrations instead had a Bavarian twang.
Noble, who has grown into a combative midfield role at Upton Park under his inspirational coach Gianfranco Zola, was rendered helpless with those alongside him by the clinical competence and defensive solidity typical of a German side.
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The New Stadium in Malmo was an arena of tortuous disappointment for the Hammers midfielder and his team-mates, who came into the game bearing the weight of intense expectation but confident they could see off the old enemy.
Germany's under-21 side brimmed with a cold efficiency but Stuart Pearce's young bucks also entered the match immobilised by the suspensions of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Fraizer Campbell and were systematically dismantled.
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James Tompkins, the other burgeoning West Ham player in the squad, spent the evening warming the bench, but the promising defender was at least spared the prospect of having his confidence eaten away by this punishing experience.
Noble attempted to inject encouragement after a mauling inflicted by Sandro Wagner's brace of goals and strikes from Gonzalo Castro and Mesut Ozil, but even that proved difficult.
"It's worse than 2007 (when England under-21s lost to Holland in the semi-finals on penalties). This time we thought we could play as well and win the game. Obviously that didn't happen, so we're all terribly gutted," he said.
The depression of a woeful record that states England have won just one of the last 65 Fifa tournaments at senior and youth level was overpowered by frustration as England's players collected their runners-up medals as the Germans danced jigs of delight.
"It's one of the worst things I've ever had to do," Noble suggested, "I didn't really watch half of it. I couldn't. It was too much to watch. I wanted that to be us up there and not them."
In the immediate aftermath of a shuddering defeat, there were no recriminations or finger-pointing, only a numbness generated by a football match no-one with allegiances to England will want to relive.
"I don't know why it didn't work for us. We started so well. We started sharp but we had a setback with their first goal and that was terrible for us," pondered Noble, recounting the agonising sounds of celebration in the German changing room.
"You could hear them afterwards so obviously it was gutting for us and our families as well. We thought we'd be bringing home a trophy, but we're not."
Images of Moore, Nobby Stiles, Bobby Charlton et al rejoicing at Germany's demise on football grandest stage gets fuzzier as the years pass, and perhaps one day, Noble can inspire a dramatic rejuvenation of that glorious encounter. For now a sense of overwhelming dejection rules.