Sunday 26 January 2020

'I made a statement' - Ireland's Declan Rice enjoyed proving a point against the club that released him at 14

Declan Rice of West Ham United
Declan Rice of West Ham United

Declan Rice put in another assured performance on Sunday as West Ham earned a crucial point away at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea.

The game held special significance for Rice, who completed 90 minutes for the second consecutive week, as it was his first time returning to the club which released him aged 14.

Speaking after the game the recently capped Republic of Ireland international, who cites John Terry as his mentor, told of his disappointment at being forced to leave the club he supported growing up.

“When Chelsea let me go it was really deflating,” he admitted. “For me, as a youngster, it's all I ever knew, living 10 minutes from the training ground and going to loads of the games.

“It's one of those where you've just got to pick yourself up and go again.”

Five years on and developing quickly in all aspects of his game, Rice insisted that despite his recent form, he is still learning on the job.

“I don't think I need to prove anything, but today I felt I came back and made a statement and I was happy with my performance.

“It’s all about learning,” he said. “I’d watched clips and obviously I know how Eden Hazard plays and how Willian plays but you can’t really tell off a video until you face them in real life as you come up against different challenges.”

Rice has become a key element of David Moyes’ back three and with the Hammers still just four points from the drop, the 19-year-old’s form in the defensive third could yet prove decisive come May.

It has been a whirlwind few weeks for Rice which have seen him make his senior international debut and play a starring role in Ireland u21’s dramatic last-gasp win over Azerbaijan last month.

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