To play Germany is just massive, says Noble

The Under-21 captain hopes to join a select band of men to have lifted a cup wearing the colours of England, writes Steve Tongue
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The number of England captains to have lifted an international trophy of any significance in the last 30 years is pathetically few. Mark Noble, proud patriot and one-club West Ham stalwart, hopes to join a small list in Malmo tonight. Supporters of the "Big Four" clubs may be lukewarm about England these days, but in London's East End, where a statue of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters sits opposite the Boleyn pub 100 yards from Upton Park, they still care. Hence the West Ham flags wherever England have played in this tournament.

"It maybe shows just how much the club loves football," Noble said yesterday. "It leads back to the Bobby Moore days when you had West Ham players in the final.

"[The fans] love the atmosphere. I'm pretty sure their wives don't like it because they are away but that's the way West Ham fans are. They are either fantastic or they can be on your back. When it comes to things like this they are brilliant."

During Friday's epic semi-final against Sweden, the chirpy Noble unexpectedly found the England manager on his back. Stuart Pearce's displeasure with the way the team fell to pieces in surrendering a three-goal lead was channelled through his captain, who barked back at least once and then found himself being substituted. Yet Noble would be bitterly upset to lose either the armband or his place in the team today, and he believes his relationship with the excitable Pearce to be unimpaired. "You know the gaffer as well as I do. I said to him afterwards as a joke: 'I can't believe you haven't had a heart attack yet.' His reaction was, 'It looks like I'm going to out here but inside I'm nice and cool.' He's two different people. He's so quiet around the hotel and gets on with what he has to do, then when it comes to the game he just wants to win so much. He wears his heart on his sleeve and barks out his orders from the touchline. I didn't think I'd done anything wrong. Obviously he is the manager and I'm the captain and he wants to put his orders through me onto the pitch. That's why it seems he is shouting at me sometimes. If I thought he was wrong I'd tell him after the game but we won so there was no need to do that."

That, the whole camp now agrees, is what it all comes down to. After all this time with one trophy to show for it – an under-18 competition 16 years ago – England simply want a win. To achieve it against Germany, Noble believes, would have a pleasing historical significance.

"When we were on the coach and got the news we were going to play Germany, it seemed like it was meant to be," he said. "If every fan could say who they want in the final they would say Germany. When you get brought through the ranks from Under-16s to Under-21s and the senior team, whenever you play Germany it is always a massive game. I'm pretty sure it's the same between Argentina and Brazil. I remember Carlos Tevez in our [West Ham] dressing-room and he was late one day. The forfeit was to pay a large amount of money or wear a Brazil shirt. He chose the money."

There is no doubt who West Ham shirts are on today. "We've played Germany once before in the tournament and got a great result against them and dominated them in many spells," Noble said. "If we can do that again and learn from the Sweden match then I'm sure we can lift the trophy."