The Rise and Rise of Declan Rice
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 17 May 2019 at 6:43pm
Written by: @ConorCulver
Following Declan Rice’s inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s squad for the upcoming UEFA Nations League Finals, it is worth taking a look back on his season and commending him for his monumental rise to international wonder-kid.
The season started so awfully, yet led to a roaring success. A performance to forget at Liverpool cost Rice his starting place in a struggling side; however, instead of allowing this to set the tone for the rest of the season, Rice used this poor outing as an opportunity to test his resolve. This is the main reason he is so so valuable. His determination is a testament to his mental toughness which, for a 20-year-old (19 at the time of the season’s start), is extremely rare. This just shows that his most valuable asset is not his strength, nor his tackling ability – but his mind. He is one of, if not the, most intelligent footballers in the side. His intelligence is seen week in week out by his lack of willingness to shoot from 25 yards at the request of 60’000 fans in order to make the right pass.
What is also extremely impressive for such a young player is his reaction when he makes a mistake (although these have been rare this season). A few times this year he has misplaced a pass and looks genuinely devastated – he’s a perfectionist and this is reflected in his game and his determination.
This was shown exceptionally in the last game of the season against Watford (in which there was very little to play for). He made a series of three or four tackles to win the ball back at halfway. He is a great example of what us West Ham fans want to see – someone who wants to play for West Ham and will give 100% every time he does. He also lets his play do the talking. One of the best moments of the year was Newcastle at home. A lot of hype surrounded the matchup between Rice and Longstaff (who himself is a good player) with many Newcastle fans holding that Rice wasn’t fit to lace Longstaff’s boots. How wrong they were. A bullet header, finger to the lips and a half-time substitution of Longstaff soon put that nonsense to rest. But this was all done without Rice saying a word, he just let his play do the talking as he has done all year long.
It mustn’t go unnoticed though – the guy can play. He is a great passer of the ball, short and long, and for the most part makes the right pass, going forward as often as he can without forcing the issue. He’s also an extremely competent defender; his recovery runs and ability to sit in at centre-half make him such a valuable holding midfielder and it is no wonder that some of the world’s biggest clubs are interested in him. It’s his combination of composure, mindset and physical ability that make him as good as he is.
There’s a reason he was London’s young footballer of the year, nominee for the PFA Young Player of the Year, England starter and now England UEFA Nations League squad member. Although the chances of seeing Rice play considerable amounts are likely slim due to a lack of experience, this shouldn’t detract from the fact that: a) he is head and shoulders above anyone else in the England squad given his age and; b) we will be seeing him in many future international tournaments with England.
Next year is an exciting one for Rice. Given his attitude, don’t be surprised to see yet more improvement, more England caps and more individual nominations. My greatest hope is that next season we see him with the captain’s armband when Noble is not playing. He has all the intangibles and clearly the ability. Rice has had an unbelievable season, and I can’t wait to see what next season brings.