Noble gets shirty with star Gerrard

WEST HAM midfielder Mark Noble is a Premier League star in his own right, but he is also a fan of the best footballers in the world, so when the chance came to receive Steven Gerrard s shirt on Saturday, he grabbed it with both hands, writes DAVE EVANS.

WEST HAM midfielder Mark Noble is a Premier League star in his own right, but he is also a fan of the best footballers in the world, so when the chance came to receive Steven Gerrard's shirt on Saturday, he grabbed it with both hands, writes DAVE EVANS.

"He's the best in my eyes," said Noble, who turned 22 the day before the clash with Liverpool. "Even given the praise he does get, I still don't think he gets enough, for me he's one of the best in Europe."

Gerrard's green shirt added to an illustrious collection of tops that Noble already has in his possession.

"I don't ask for many," he said. "I've got Paul Scholes, Cesc Fabregas, Frank Lampard's and Joe Cole's at home, and now Gerrard's. I like getting the best midfielders in the country and he completes my collection."


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Noble, of course, is looking to be mentioned in the same breath as those famous players, and Saturday's battling performance against Liverpool will have done him no harm at all.

Especially in the first half, he matched the likes of Javier Mascherano, Yossi Benayoun and Lucas, and though he never reached the heights of two-goal Gerrard, that was not surprising considering the midfielders that West Ham had missing on the day.

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Noble dreams of being on a par with Gerrard one day: "Everyone wants to be that good," he said. "As well as a fantastic brain, he's strong, quick and powerful. He's got everything and if I can be nearly as good as him, then I'll be pleased."

Gerrard's goal tally is what stands him head and shoulder above most midfielders. He has 23 to his name now in all competitions, and Noble's five pales into insignificance alongside it.

That is something that Noble is keen to improve: "That's the thing I'd like to add to my game," said the 22-year-old, who has missed his last two spot-kicks for West Ham.

"I'm pretty okay at everything else - tackling and passing - but I'd like to score a few more goals and hopefully I can do that next season."

Saturday's defeat means that a place in Europe has become a long shot for the Hammers, but Noble still believes that his team has the capabilities to earn the points to grab that seventh spot.

"Obviously Fulham are doing fantastic at the moment and they've been consistent. I think that's paid off for them and they picked up a big win against Villa, but it's still possible for us," said Canning Town-born Noble.

"We've got Everton and Middlesbrough now and we're looking to win both of those games. If we can do that then we'll be there or thereabouts, we certainly need the six points though."

There will be no let-up for Noble this summer. The midfielder, who is West Ham's current longest serving player, has chalked up 106 appearances since breaking into the first team back in 2004, will be on international duty.

He will go into a friendly match with Azerbaijan in Milton Keynes on June 8, before flying out to Sweden for the European under-21 Champion-ships, his last chance to play in the tournament.

England are in a group with Finland, who they play on June 15, Spain (June 18) and Germany (June 22), with the prospect of a final as late as June 29.

Noble though, can't wait to get out there: "That will be my chance to win something this year," he said. "Obviously playing 35 games a season is tough on your body, but if I can keep healthy and fit, then I'll be all right."

With Noble fit and playing well, West Ham will be all right too and who knows, an up-and-coming midfielder may soon be asking for his shirt for his elite collection.

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