Ton-up for Noble

FANS FAVOURITE Mark Noble is in line to make his 100th league appearance for West Ham on Saturday against Birmingham City, writes BEN WELCH Noble, who is the Hammers longest serving player at the age of 22, has recovered from a stomach bug which kept him

FANS FAVOURITE Mark Noble is in line to make his 100th league appearance for West Ham on Saturday against Birmingham City, writes BEN WELCH

Noble, who is the Hammers' longest serving player at the age of 22, has recovered from a stomach bug which kept him out of the Manchester United and Burnley games.

West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola had left the former England under-21 midfielder out of his side's previous two fixtures against Everton and Hull City before he fell ill.

The last time Noble played for the Hammers was against Aston Villa when he scored a first-half penalty during a 2-1 win.


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But with the Hammers hovering dangerously over the relegation zone, Zola may replace the ineffectual Radoslav Kovac with the combative Noble.

After Saturday's mauling at Upton Park at the hands of Manchester United, where Scott Parker and Kovac were given a masterclass by Paul Scholes and Anderson, the case for Noble's recall at St Andrew's grows in strength.

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It was, in fact, the buccaneering number 16 who struck a sublime free kick last time West Ham won on the road - a 2-0 victory over Wolves on the opening day.

Claret and blue through and through, the boy from Canning Town was wanted by Arsene Wenger as a schoolboy, but decided to play for the Hammers, the club he supports.

In a classic story of local boy made good, Noble has gone from sitting in the stands singing 'Bubbles', to becoming an Upton Park hero.

Former West Ham manager Alan Pardew threw a 17-year-old Noble into first team action on August 24, 2004 as a substitute during a 2-0 win over Southend in the League Cup.

Since his emergence into the first team he has cemented himself in the hearts of the Hammers' faithful with his all-action displays.

Most notably, when he returned to the starting line-up for the unforgettable 4-3 home defeat by Tottenham in March 2007, which prompted some very public tears.

But Noble went on to play a hugely influential role as the Hammers performed the Great Escape and preserved their Premier League status.

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