With composure off the pitch as good as on it, Declan Rice certainly has a big future ahead of him.
Whether that is at West Ham or not remains to be seen but the 19-year-old certainly impressed Blowing Bubbles during an interview where he was open and honest.
He wasn’t playing any games – despite the ongoing contract saga that has frustrated and infuriated most West Ham fans – where other players in the top flight might to try and get what they want.
He is clear what he wants in the short-term and Rice, who has already amassed more than 40 appearances in claret and blue, speaks with a confidence that he knows he will be here at West Ham for some time yet.
‘People say that I might be the next Mark Noble – I can only aspire to be that. I want to stay at West Ham and we will just need to see what happens,’ the 19-year-old said.
‘I don’t really think about [being a 19-year-old in a Premier League team]. I’m not one to think about my age and where I am.
‘I think it’s because I’m surrounded by so many older players. I’ve also got a good family at home, brothers, a girlfriend and they all help me keep my feet on the ground.
‘I’ve got great friends and I think if I did get a bit ahead of my station, I wouldn’t be where I am now and wouldn’t be performing as well as I have been so it’s pretty much down to my family and my teammates for always pushing me and making me go harder.
‘I feel 19 but people say when they see me playing, that I’m a bit older and more mature so it’s good for people to be saying that.’
Speaking of Noble, the 6ft 1in defensive midfielder was clearly delighted that our number 16 has extended his contract until 2021.
‘I think it’s great that Mark is staying. We’ve got some great academy players coming through and I think to have him around is special.
‘The amount he has done for me, and the amount he has done for Grady, it’s fully deserved that he has got a new contract.
‘If you look at what he has done for the club. He has been here 17 years now and will be here until he reaches 20 years – I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with 500 appearances for the club.
‘Everything goes through him, if you ever need anything or ever got any problems, he is the person to go to. He is a top, top man and it’s really good to have him around.’
It certainly feels like London-born Rice has been around for a long-time too but it wasn’t until April 2017 that he was first called into the West Ham United senior squad for the games against Sunderland and Everton in April 2017, after impressing in West Ham’s under-23 team.
He then made his senior debut against Burnley on the last day of the 2016—17 Premier League season, coming on as a 91st-minute substitute for Edimilson Fernandes in a 2—1 away win, five days after captaining the under-23’s to promotion with a 2—1 win at Newcastle United.
And he went onto make his full senior debut in August 2017 in a 3—2 defeat at Southampton, and was rightly named as runner-up for the 2017—18 Hammer of the Year award behind Marko ArnautoviÄ‡.
And while Rice has only played under three managers in a short period, Noble has had to impress eight different managers since 2004.
‘It’s a real testament to him that new managers have come in, liked him and kept him on as captain.Embed from Getty Images
‘It’s not hard to see really as we’ve all seen how well he has been playing for a number of years now.
‘I’ve had three different managers and every time a manager comes in, it’s a fresh start and you just have to give 100 per cent and show him what you can do and make him believe in you.
‘I try to go out there every week and give 100 per cent. Whether I have a good game or a bad game, I always walk off the pitch making sure that I’ve not left anything on it, and come off with an empty tank that’s all.
‘I try to be honest and it’s a bonus that I’m playing well but we’re all playing well, which is the main thing and explains why we won three in a row at the start of December.
‘We said at the start of the season that it would take a bit of time to click and I think you can see it now. We scored nine goals in those three games in December but you’ve always got to go out there and think you are going to win and give your best.’
Not only has Rice got the ongoing contract saga as a possible distraction there remains a question mark over his long-term international future and whether he will be represent Ireland or England.
But his relaxed interview manner leads you to believe he isn’t being affected by either ‘saga’ and he is simply living his best life under a manager he has nothing but good things to say about.
‘He’s such a good manager.’ said Rice, who was on Chelsea’s books from 2006 until 2014. ‘He always wants us to play attacking football, even when we are in training – building up from the back passing.
‘He puts one-touch and two-touch games on. That’s his style to always be attacking and that’s why we scored nine goals in three wins at the start of December, and they were nine great goals if you think about it.
One of the players who shone in those games against Newcastle, Cardiff and Palace was Felipe Anderson – a player our current number 41 still pinches himself about playing with.
‘He scored five goals in six games in that run. He’s been on fire and a great player for us.
‘I never thought I would have been playing with Felipe Anderson aged 19 – let alone any of the other players I am playing with!
‘But we brought in some great players in the summer with Fabian and Diop who have been outstanding for us, Lukasz in goal has been excellent and you know we’ve got a great squad here and we need to just keep it going now.’
But how far can this newly-assembled squad go?
‘At start of the season when we spoke, we set out our ambitions and with the squad that we have, we all said we should be finishing in the top half of the table without a shadow of a doubt.
‘We shouldn’t be finishing anywhere below 10th. We need to look further and be more positive.
‘After the first four games, who would have thought we would have been five points off sixth after we beat Palace? The confidence is rising.
‘We are going into games now knowing we are going to get chances and knowing we are going to score goals so it’s just whether or not we can keep them out at the other end.
‘We’re always positive now that we are going to go out and win the game.’
One issue last month that clearly irked Rice was the alleged racist abuse directed towards Raheem Sterling when he played for Man City away at Chelsea.
‘It’s happening far too much now. We see so much of it on social media now.
‘We need to kick it out the game but it keeps reoccuring. It’s something we don’t want in our game, and something we don’t want in life in general.
‘I think it’s disgusting. Why can’t we be praising Sterling for what he has done this season?
‘Because he has been on fire – one of the best players in the Premier League so there’s not enough people talking about how he is playing.
*Declan Rice was speaking to TalkSport’s Ian Abrahams. Listen to Moose’s extended interviews at soundcloud.com/talksport