Belfast Telegraph

Mark Noble given an extended break by West Ham boss Slaven Bilic

Mark Noble has been given time off by West Ham manager Slaven Bilic in a bid to rediscover his best form.

Hammers skipper Noble has been singled out for criticism by a section of fans following some underwhelming performances by the team this season.

Last term Noble was being touted for an England call-up but his form has dipped - and Bilic feels the responsibility of captaining his boyhood club during a challenging campaign this time around is weighing down the Canning Town-born midfielder.

Noble will be taken out of the firing line against Leicester on Saturday after aggravating a dead leg at Bournemouth last weekend, and Bilic has backed the 29-year-old to come back stronger after the international break.

"He is the captain and is doing everything for the club," said Bilic. "He is exactly what a captain should be, but sometimes it is too much.

"Sometimes he takes it home and thinks about that - not only about him but about the club.

"A man can take only what he can take, basically. I spoke about that with him. He is not available for Saturday and after that we have an international break.

"I left it to him, his decision whether to go somewhere for a week and come back as strong as he was. I have no worries about Mark."

Meanwhile, Bilic has defended his training methods after Reading manager Jaap Stam claimed on-loan West Ham defender Reece Oxford was struggling with the regime at the Madejski Stadium.

The 18-year-old moved to the Championship promotion-chasers in January but has so far made just one substitute appearance, much to the annoyance of Bilic.

He said: "I am surprised, and I'm not happy with that. He went there to play.

"The only reason for him to leave us and go on loan was to get more games than he was getting here. "

Stam this week told reporters: "Reece Oxford has been surprised at the level of intensity in training at Reading, compared to at West Ham."

But Bilic hit back: "We are training very intensely here.

"Reece is a different situation because he was out injured for more than four weeks. When he was coming back, he trained individually and he played more for the under-23s. So he is not a role model for how we were training.

"But if you ask me, if I heard any feedback about the intensity of our training, it was never a question of do we train with less intensity? It was more sometimes that we train too much."

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