Sunday 20 October 2019

Declan Rice relieved to escape boos after IRA message

Declan Rice. Photo: PA
Declan Rice. Photo: PA

Matt Law

Declan Rice has admitted he feared he would be booed by England fans for the pro-IRA social media message he posted as a teenager.

The midfielder’s Instagram message, in which he wrote ‘UP THE RA. Wait Till We Draw England’, was posted when he was a member of the Republic of Ireland’s junior squads and emerged on the eve of his England senior debut after switching allegiances.

Rice made his England debut as a substitute in last week’s victory over Czech Republic at Wembley and then started for the first time in the Euro 2020 thrashing of Montenegro in Podgorica on Monday night.

Despite making a statement in which he apologised for the old message and stressed it did not represent his views, 20-year-old Rice was concerned it could be held against him.

“I thought there was maybe going to be some booing,” said West Ham United midfielder Rice. “I didn’t know how the fans would take to me. But the reception from the England fans has been top class. They have taken me in.

“To get the claps at the end (of the Montenegro game) and coming on at Wembley to a massive roar, I thank them very much because it gives me the confidence to perform.

“At Wembley with the stuff the night before that happened, you never know in football. I thought some people might not be happy. You never know, so to get the roar, to get the clapping now, I am delighted.

“I didn’t feel too bad [when the message came out] because, like I said in the statement, I was 15 years old. They aren’t my beliefs at all. I was a kid. I’ve just kept a level head all week. Tried to do what I’ve been doing at my club, go out and perform and put it behind me.”

Rice’s family were among the Podgorica crowd to see him sing the national anthem for the first time as an England player.

“It feels very special,” said Rice. “To get my debut the other night, that was special and then when I found out that I was starting, I was bursting with pride. The whole week has been an amazing experience, training with unbelievable, world-class players – that’s who I want to put myself with. To get two wins that sets us in good stead for the group.

“Walking out was amazing. I had my whole family here. Singing the anthem, I could see them while I was singing it. I made eye contact with them early on. That was incredible.”

Able to play in midfield or in the centre of defence, Rice revealed the two players he has been studying during his progression.

“(Sergio) Busquets is the one I’ve watched since I was a kid,” said Rice. “He doesn’t move from the centre circle. He plays with 360 vision. I’m 20, I’m learning the position, of course I am going to get better. There is stuff I definitely need to improve on.

“I study for myself, my own games and others. I like Jorginho, the way he plays and passes. There’s stuff I can add to my game.”

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