Mark Noble has revealed that at the age of 32 it is still the fear of failure that drives him on.
The 32-year-old West Ham skipper is poised to make his first appearance of the season tomorrow at Watford after recovering from a calf injury – a remarkable 15 years to the day since he made his debut for the club.
The callow 17-year-old made his maiden first-team outing for the Hammers in a 2-0 League Cup win against Southend in 2004.
Since then the Canning Town-born boy and Hammers fan has notched up 485 games, most of them in the Premier League, and including a couple of loan spells early in his career at Hull and Ipswich.
But no matter how many big money signings the Hammers have made since then, and there have been a few – like Dimitri Payet, Lee Bowyer, Scott Parker, Freddie Ljungbjerg and Kevin Nolan – Noble has always fought for his place, and survived.
As the Hammers go in search of their first win of the season today, Noble, who has been at the club since he was 13, said: “Many top midfield players have been bought by the club during those years yet my mentality has never changed.
“I’ve always thought, ‘If fit, there’s no way I am letting anyone else take this shirt.’
“I‘m 32 now but I still get nervous before every training session – because I want to be the best player out there. I’ll have that attitude until my final game as a player. It’s a fear of failure which drives me on.
“It’s the same with anything – golf, table tennis. If I’m on my way to play a round of golf there is an anxiety in me, a feeling of ‘I can’t lose today.’
“That’s the way I am and it has served me well over those last 15 years.
“If you had said to me, when I was 14 years old, that you could play just one game in the Premier League, I would have taken it like a shot!
“In fact I’ve played 485 games, including a couple of loan spells early on – and I’m still hungry for many more.
“To accumulate almost 500 games in a decade and a half means I’m averaging more than 30 per season and I’m proud of that. I have been fortunate with injuries but there are other factors – mentality and lifestyle for example.”
The Hammers face Watford tomorrow (3pm) looking to pick up their first win of the season after losing heavily to Manchester City and then drawing with Brighton away from home.
Noble added: “Watford will be hard but that’s nothing unusual. I watched Sheffield United last weekend and they absolutely ran their socks off.
“My pet hate is being beaten by a team who works harder than you do. We mustn’t let that happen.”
Probable West Ham team to face Watford: Fabianski; Fredericks, Ogbonna, Diop, Masuaku; Lanzini, Rice, Noble, Anderson; Haller, Hernandez.