Declan Rice’s calm and composed performances on the pitch for West Ham is fast making him one of the hottest properties in the English game. The 19-year-old is currently in the middle of a tug of war between nations with Gareth Southgate’s England and Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland battling for his services.
You can bet that Ryan Giggs and Alex McLeish have also both been looking through his family tree desperate to find a Jones or a Mckay tucked away in the timeline somewhere too – such is the excitement surrounding him at the minute. Rice’s rise to prominence has been rapid. He entered the first team last season and has come on leaps and bounds under the guidance of first David Moyes, and now Manuel Pellegrini.
Two managers with differing ideas about football but two excellent starting managers for a young defence-minded player to learn their trade under. Moyes in many ways is old school and pragmatic, a no-nonsense kind of manager who would’ve instilled that defence mental state into Rice last season. But he thrived, starring in many games at the back end of last season, impressing with his positional awareness and leadership.
Under Pellegrini, his game has developed further still, so much so that there are now growing fears that the promising youngster may be having his head turned by whispers of a top-five club knocking on his door, especially with his contract running down. Under the Chilean, Rice has predominantly been played in midfield, a position that was a little unknown to the West Ham number 41.
Coming through the ranks at West Ham he has plied his trade more in the heart of the defence than the centre of the park. Pellegrini though knows talent having had Santi Cazorla come through the ranks during his time in Spain, and the Chilean will like what he has seen so far from the former under 23’s skipper.
Declan’s composure and calmness on the ball has surprised many, and I would almost liken him to Michael Carrick in the way he carries himself on the football field. Reliable, calm and collected while also being technically excellent with his feet, and mentally astute too knowing when the put a foot in and knowing where to be to break the play up.
It is easy to see why we have taken the youngster under our wing and why many are so desperate to see him tied down to a very long-term contract. Indeed, after the Manchester United success, I urged the board to sign him down to a 20-year deal such was the quality of the performance of the midfielder – who is still tipping out the remains of Paul Pogba from his short pockets.
Most importantly though, in my opinion, is the maturity he has shown, this season he has been forced into the limelight, and rather than letting it go to his head he has continued to be down to earth and professional. He has had contract negotiations regarding wages leaked out in the press, he has one of the most significant decision in his life rattling around in his brain in regards to him picking his national team and yet week in, week out despite all this he continues to be our best player, all this at just 19-years of age.
He is a heck of a talent, and under Pellegrini’s style of play, he can only become a more rounded and complete player. The former Manchester City gaffer will ask Rice to play with the football rather than knock it long, and you can immediately see that Declan has embraced that, you hardly see him panic on the ball, and he will always look for the simple short pass rather than the aimless hoof.
He is the type of player that not only West Ham have been screaming out for but dare I say it, England. Finally, the West Ham academy system has something to smile about after years in the abyss, we may well have stolen him from Chelsea but this for sure is a success for the scouts and the academy coaches.
Not only is his rising quality every passing week good news for the Hammers first team but also any players looking to come through the system at West Ham, the likes of Grady Diangana and Nathan Holland can look up to Declan and see that with hard work and commitment anything is possible. So, for crying out loud messers Gold and Sullivan chuck a wheelbarrow load of £50 pound notes his way and get him tied down, this is the best we’ve produced since Ferdinand, Carrick, and Cole, please don’t let this boy slip through the net as well.