'He has a big problem' - Manuel Pellegrini weighs in on Declan Rice's Ireland or England decision
Manuel Pellegrini, the West Ham United manager, believes Declan Rice will be good enough to play for England after it emerged the teenager is considering switching from the Republic of Ireland.
Rice, who can play in midfield and defence, has made three senior appearances for Ireland but is now considering his future after speaking to Gareth Southgate, the England manager.
The 19-year-old was left out of Martin O’Neill’s latest Ireland squad and is still able to change countries because all of his appearances have come in friendlies. Rice was born in London but has grandparents on his father’s side who hailed from Cork.
“He has a big problem but I think that his heart must decide if he feels more Irish or more English,” said Pellegrini. “He is 19 years old and his future will allow him to play for England or Ireland.
“Maybe for him it can be more easy to play for Ireland but if you trust in yourself and you feel that you are an English player… It is a personal decision, it is very difficult to give advice but I am always speaking with him because he is young and he has a lot of future.”
Rice started in midfield during West Ham’s 3-1 win over AFC Wimbledon in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night, and Pellegrini believes he will eventually be able to win a place in the England side.
“With the way he is managing his career, at 19 years old, he is a player that is completing his development as a player in a physical way,” the West Ham manager said. “When you are 19 you need to be strong - he is a strong player, he is a good technical player. I think he has a big future.
“With England he will have big competition but I think he is able to take that challenge, without giving him a decision. He must take the decision himself.”
Rice has been criticised by former Ireland international Kevin Kilbane, who made 110 appearances for his country.
“I’d rather be ranked 150th in the world and never qualify again than have someone who has played, but needs time to think whether they should play for us again,” Kilbane said on Twitter.
Kilbane was supported by James McClean, the Stoke City winger, who wrote: “Representing your country should be an honour and a proud moment.”
McClean, who played alongside Rice in each of the teenager’s appearances for Ireland, represented Northern Ireland at under-21 level earlier in his career.
In a statement on Instagram, McClean responded to accusations of hypocrisy by saying: “I played with the north when I was younger, I have openly admitted in the past to taking advantage of a system to further myself, we all make mistakes.
“[The] big difference here is I had no intention of ever playing senior football for the north of Ireland… which I made crystal clear when I declined a call up when I was a Derry City player.”