Are West Ham big enough to keep hold of Declan Rice this summer?

Time will tell if our captain believes the Hammers can move up to the oft mentioned next level

I was at the London Stadium the day they made the announcement. Sandwiched between the obligatory ‘Come on You Irons’ and the team rundown was confirmation that Declan Rice had signed a five-year contract. 

The reaction of the crowd was equal to a vital goal being scored. Maybe that was true but excitement and disappointment split my emotions in half. 

It was jollification that would be short lived as Rice was biding his time; and West Ham were only protecting their asset with a contract that built in suitable compensation. But what’s the story two years down the line? 

We all want Rice to do what Mark Noble has done; Stay a faithful one-club player for the entirety of his career. 

But realistically that’s not going to happen; It’s a question of when he leaves, not if. But what does he lose and gain by leaving West Ham? 

Let’s assume he transfers to either Chelsea or Manchester City (he may have other clubs in mind but likely he will join one of these two). 

Rice will almost certainly have to fight for his place, but at West Ham, he’s the first name on the team sheet.

There will be huge pressure on him to live up to his billing. Rice gets a standing ovation every time he makes a tackle at West Ham. God like status will not be as easy to earn at Chelsea or City.

There is also the gulf in expectation between West Ham and bigger clubs. And here is the potential gain for Rice if he left; He has a better chance of winning the Champions League. 

True the Hammers are no longer just getting by and happy to be here, they are seriously challenging the top four. 

But there is a big difference between qualifying for the Champions League and actually winning the trophy. 

It is now the blue ribbon event in club football, the yardstick by which all players measure themselves. 

Cast your minds back to Leicester’s Premier League win in 2016; West Ham could emulate that achievement, but Leicester got nowhere near winning the Champions League. 

Harry Redknapp weighed into the debate when he was interviewed by Ken Dyer for the official website. 

He believed Rice would stay because West Ham are a big club. Harry enthused: ‘Look at that stadium. Every week it’s sold out, that shows you how big West Ham are — and getting bigger all the time’. 

It might be the realist lurking deep within me, but Harry is thinking with his heart and not his head. However, it raises a broader issue about what constitutes a big club. 

Is it measured by turnover, reputation, history or a sustained period of success? West Ham are one of the richest clubs in the world and have a great history but no recent success. 

There is an inherent glamour generated by a certain trio and that mystical double digit, but does that necessarily afford them big club status? 

Newcastle fill a 50,000 seater stadium every week but haven’t won a trophy since 1969, can they still stake a claim to the tag? 

The notion of Rice moving to a bigger club could be a red herring. Like all top players, he’s financially secure and will look for medals on the sideboard. But is he convinced that the club’s ambition matches his own?

Harry Redknapp rightly pays tribute to the achievements of David Moyes. Under his guidance relegation candidates have turned into Champions League material. 

A fifth place finish last season, currently in the top four and into the knock-out stages of the Europa League. 

It’s quite a turnaround for Moyes as much as anyone else who has silenced his critics. 

There is a strange feeling that Moyes belongs at West Ham. Two underdogs with a point to prove feels like a match made in heaven.

And as any stat geek will know, our very first goal in the Football League on 30 August 1919 was scored by one James Moyes; It was obviously meant to be.

Returning from that brief tangent, I would say everything bodes well. West Ham finally look like a club with real ambition.

No longer are we flirting with relegation or wondering why no one will sign for us.

With new Czech investment, we will no longer be a selling club so we know that players of Rice’s quality won’t be sold just to balance the books.

But does that mean he will stay in the claret and blue? Only Rice knows the answer to that question.

The club, however, has never been in a stronger position to retain our best players. Keep everything crossed and grab every piece of wood.

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