Tuesday 25 April 2017

West Ham boss Slaven Bilic standing by Mark Noble

Mark Noble was criticised for his performance against Chelsea
Mark Noble was criticised for his performance against Chelsea

Slaven Bilic has thrown his support behind captain Mark Noble after he was criticised for his performance in West Ham's defeat against Chelsea on Monday night.

Noble played an unwanted role in Chelsea's opener as it was his intercepted pass which led to Eden Hazard scoring after 25 minutes at the London Stadium.

Noble was substituted in the second half after Diego Costa had already doubled Chelsea's lead en route to securing a comfortable 2-1 victory for the runaway Premier League leaders.

Some West Ham fans have called for Bilic to drop Noble, 29, who has played more than 400 matches for the east London club.

But speaking ahead of his side's Premier League clash at Bournemouth on Saturday, Bilic said: "Mark is our captain, he is our skipper and he has done really well recently.

"He is the leader of the team. He keeps us balanced. Sometimes he has a great game and sometimes he doesn't, but overall he is playing good for us.

"He is also more than a player on the pitch. His presence means a lot for the others around him. He is very influential, especially when it is not going well. He motivates the players and he cheers them up.

"You can't just judge a player on one mistake. Otherwise Barcelona should have sold all their players after the first leg in Paris, and now they should give them all long-term contracts. Paris, the other way round. Sell them all."

West Ham are unbeaten in their last three league games away from the London Stadium and will head to the south coast 11th in the table despite a troubled start to their campaign.

But Bilic, when asked about securing European football for next season, insisted his sole focus is on ensuring the club's Premier League status and expects Bournemouth, who held Manchester United in their last outing, to provide a tough test of his side's credentials.

Bournemouth's 1-1 draw at Old Trafford - despite playing the second half with only 10 men following Andrew Surman's sending off - ended a run of four consecutive league defeats for Eddie Howe's side.

"Their last game gave them a big boost of confidence and belief because to get a point at Old Trafford is always a good result especially if you do it with 10 men," said Bilic who will welcome Michail Antonio back from suspension for Saturday's fixture.

"We are expecting a really difficult game on a difficult pitch with a good atmosphere but we are looking forward to it.

"There is still a big job to do. We have to approach every game and try and win it and see where it will bring us. We want, and we have to finish strongly."

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