Slaven Bilic has jumped to the defence of West Ham skipper Mark Noble as the Hammers prepare to go in search of victory at AFC Bournemouth in the Premier League tomorrow.

Hammers boss Bilic has reacted to reaffirm the positivity of having Nolan as a leader on the pitch after the midfielder received criticism following the defeat to Chelsea.

It was Bilic who made Noble skipper when he took the reigns at Upton Park in 2015; it completed a remarkable ascent for life-long Hammers fan Noble, who broke into the first-team as a keen schemer aged just 17 back in 2004.

Nolan has honed his leadership qualities during topsy-turvy times with the club but he has benefited from having backing from the majority of supporters.

Yet he got some stick after making a mistake against the Blues at the London Stadium when his misplaced ball halfway through the first half led to Eden Hazard opening the scoring for the Blues, who went on to chalk up a 2-1 win.

Bilic argues that critics shouldn’t judge Noble following one mistake; and points out that his form before the defeat to Antonio Conte’s outfit he was quizzed on the player’s suitability for an England call-up.

He said: “He is the leader of the team. He keeps us balanced. Sometimes he has a great game, sometimes he doesn’t. But overall he is playing good for us. And he is more than a player on the pitch. His presence means a lot. It means a lot for the others around him.”

“Before Chelsea I was asked the question: Does Mark Noble deserve an England call-up? Now, after nothing basically, I am being asked: What about Mark Noble? It’s about believing in your team. The Barcelona game showed that that changing something when needed is good. But what is 100% is that you never stop believing in your players.”

One thing is for sure; Noble won’t let the mistake and subsequent criticism of his performance get to his confidence; he is a player whose mindset seems to be focused on grafting – working hard at all times and earning the right to play the game. And Bilic says his skipper even displays this attitude during training sessions.

He added: “Mark loves to train. He very rarely misses a training session. He listens, he leads, he is a top professional. He never trains at 50, 60, 70 or 80 per cent. He trains at 100 per cent. It’s ideal when you have players like him.”

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