Thursday 13 December 2018

Talk of Ireland captaincy doesn't faze me - Declan Rice

Declan Rice considering switching his international allegiances to England
Declan Rice considering switching his international allegiances to England

Damian Spellman

Declan Rice is not remotely fazed by the suggestion that he is a Republic of Ireland captain in waiting.

The 19-year-old is just three games into his senior international career and is yet to play a competitive game for his country, but retiring stalwart John O'Shea has already seen enough to tip him to wear the armband one day.

However, having handled his introduction to the big stage with the minimum of fuss, the West Ham defender is taking the acclaim in his stride.

Asked about O'Shea's comments, he said: "He's been at the top of the game and played with some top, top players. To hear that from him, I don't like to take it on too much, but it's nice to hear. I've had a little joke with him.

"Maybe one day I do see myself as a future captain because I do have it in me to tell people and order people around."

Rice was handed his debut in Turkey in March, initially lining up at the back and then moving into a midfield role, and he was asked to do the reverse in much more illustrious company in Monday night's 2-0 defeat in France.

He played as a holding midfielder in Saturday evening's 2-1 victory over the United States and impressed once again to illustrate a potential which has left manager Martin O'Neill believing he has a genuine talent on his hands.

The teenager also qualifies to represent England and until he makes a competitive appearance for the Republic - his first chance will come against Wales in September - there will be those who may feel Hammers co-chairman David Gold's challenge to new manager Manuel Pellegrini to make him a fixture in a Three Lions shirt could yet come to fruition.

However, Rice has repeatedly insisted his decision has been made and there is no possibility of a rethink.

He said: "It's a question that keeps being asked. I'm just focusing on playing at the moment and enjoying my football - that's the main thing. There are two games coming up in September and we're looking forward to them."

Asked about Gold's remarks, he replied: "It's one of those things, he's just come out and said it. I'm not going to take too much from it. I'm here and I'm playing for Ireland."

At club level, Rice worked under Slaven Bilic and David Moyes during the last campaign, which saw him make 31 appearances, and he will return for pre-season with another manager to impress.

However, he admits he could not have envisaged what has happened to him in the last 10 months.

He said: "Even at the start of the Premier League season, I couldn't have said I would go on to play that many games. It's just down to the hard work of both managers that I've had at club level who believed in me.

"Martin believed in me here too and the players have also put trust in me, giving me the ball and letting me express myself. I've really enjoyed it and I can't wait to do it more."

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