LONDON (AP) — West Ham great Mark Noble will stick to his decision to retire at the end of the season, even if the team qualifies for the Champions League for the first time.
Noble, who has played for West Ham since 2004, announced in March last year that this season would be his last with the London club.
The club captain has helped West Ham reach the semifinals of the Europa League, with the winner of the competition qualifying automatically for the Champions League.
That, though, wouldn't tempt Noble to delay his retirement for a year.
“Winning the Europa League and lifting the trophy — would I come back? No," the 34-year-old Noble said Wednesday. "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.”
Noble is no longer a regular in West Ham's team, with Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice the central-midfield partnership under David Moyes.
Still, he is enjoying his farewell tour at the club he joined as a 16-year-old player, with West Ham going deep in Europe for the first time in a generation. Knocking out Sevilla, a serial winner of the Europa League, in the last 16 will go down as one of the great occasions in West Ham's recent history.
Having dispatched Lyon in the quarterfinals, West Ham faces Eintracht Frankfurt over two legs in the semifinals starting Thursday with the first game at the Olympic Stadium.
“Did I imagine it? Yes. Did I think this would happen? Probably no,” Noble said of West Ham's run to the last four.
“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.
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The Associated Press