Sunday 15 September 2019

'He'd walk into the Ireland team' - Ian Rush feels Declan Rice is better than John Stones was at 19

West Ham's Felipe Anderson celebrates scoring their second goal with Declan Rice and team mates REUTERS/Hannah McKay
West Ham's Felipe Anderson celebrates scoring their second goal with Declan Rice and team mates REUTERS/Hannah McKay Newsdesk Newsdesk

Liverpool legend Ian Rush heaped praise on Declan Rice after the West Ham teenager put in another polished performance in the Hammers 2-1 victory over Southampton last night.

Rush feels that Rice is on a similar path to Man City defender John Stones who made a £50m move to the Etihad in 2016 after breaking into the Everton team as a teenager.

"He reminds me of John Stones, when he was Everton," he said on beIN Sports.

"I think Rice is a better player, at that age. Whether [he plays for] England or Ireland, it's up to him to decide. He's come on a lot. For me, he's a centre-back. He can play the holding midfield role as well. To be at his best, for me he's a ball-playing centre-half."

Mick McCarthy has held a meeting, he described as 'really good', with Rice and his family and the London-born midfielder/defender is expected to choose between Ireland and England early in the new year.

"With Mick McCarthy, they're looking to progress," Rush added.

"Ireland, what they've achieved the last two years, it's not been great. He'd walk into the Ireland team. Maybe he wouldn't walk into the England team."

Rice's West Ham contract is due to expire in the summer and Hammers fans are growing concerned that he may leave on a free if a new deal can't be negotiated.

Manager Manuel Pellegrini made his feelings about Rice known after the game.

"I see Declan work every day and it is difficult for me to be surprised with him now. He always wants to learn more, he didn't have any problems, he was just focusing on playing. Then the media started about his contract and his money but he never had any problem in that sense, he was always working hard and he is just 19 years old, he has got such a bright future ahead of him."

Rice was happy to deflect praise to West Ham's two-goal hero Felipe Anderson.

"Felipe has popped up with two unbelievable goals," he told West Ham's club website.

"For the second, it was good defending from the corner. Luckily enough we broke, and got the goal.

"In the first half, we were creating chances. We were getting the ball out wide and we had one just before half-time that nearly went in. We come in at half-time and the manager said: ‘keep going, we’re going to get a chance’.

"That’s the first half of the season out of the way. We’ve got to recover now and go to Burnley on Sunday. We’re setting ourselves up for a good second half to the season and we need to keep pushing."

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