By Jonathan Veal, PA
Mark Noble insists he will not go back on his decision to retire at the end of the season even if West Ham win the Europa League.
The 34-year-old will call time on his career in the summer, bringing a long stint with his boyhood club to an emotional end.
There is a real chance that he could go out on a high, with the Hammers gunning for Europa League glory.
David Moyes’ side face German outfit Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday in the first leg of their semi-final and know winning the competition would be a ticket to the Champions League, but Noble says even that would not tempt him to keep playing.
“I’ve been asked this question so many times by so many people,” the club captain said. “The reason we would get into the Champions League is by winning the Europa League.
“Winning the Europa League and lifting the trophy, would I come back? No. And that’s my honest answer. To end on that would be pretty special.
“I was joking with the lads the other day, saying if that did happen, I’d happily come watch the Champions League games with the Europa League trophy on the next chair. But that is way down the line.”
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Noble admitted that his farewell tour has been even better than he could have imagined as the club he joined as a 16-year-old have gone toe-to-toe with some European heavyweights.
“Did I imagine it? Yes. Did I think this would happen? Probably no,” he said.
“This season for me, after announcing that this would be my last, has been special. It’s not over yet.
“We’ve got an incredible game here and probably a bigger game in a week’s time. To be able to enjoy that with the West Ham fans, with the players and staff, is an incredible achievement.
“Do I think it’s possible to win? Yes. It will be tough, because the three other teams in this situation will be thinking the same.
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“The fans behind us, the fans who will travel to Frankfurt, I have crossed my fingers since we beat Lyon.”
On paper Frankfurt – currently ninth in the Bundesliga – look an attractive proposition at this stage of a major European competition, but they arrive in London on the back of dumping Barcelona out in the quarter-finals.
They took 30,000 fans to the Nou Camp and will be well backed again in the capital on Thursday, but Moyes has called on Hammers fans to show they mean business as well.
“It’s really special that two teams with a history – maybe not a recent history – are back together in Europe,” the Scot said, referencing the Hammers’ last European semi-final – the 1976 Cup Winners’ Cup – in which Frankfurt were also the opponents.
“Frankfurt, who I would consider a big name in German football, with incredible support… When I heard they took 30,000 to Barcelona, I thought, ‘Wow’.
“West Ham, we’ve now got a really good stadium, a fantastic crowd, and I hope we can show what we’ve got as well.
“When you become a manager, one of the biggest things is you want to make sure the supporters are getting a decent level of football.
“You want to give them something back. On top of that, from our point of view, there’s been a much better togetherness between the supporters and the players.
“If we can get the London Stadium the way it was for Sevilla, it will take some doing.”
Moyes hinted that defenders Kurt Zouma and Issa Diop were closing in on returns to fitness, but said he would not rush any players back.