Declan Rice is currently having to make the most difficult decision of his footballing career to date. Does he opt to continue playing for Ireland or does he hold off and wait for his chance with England?
I have always kept a close eye on Declan Rice’s career for both West Ham and Ireland. Nothing gives you greater pleasure than seeing one of your club’s players playing for your country. I hold him in high esteem and have previously written a blog about Rice, following on from his first senior cap for Ireland.
Rice has represented Ireland at U16, U17, U19 & U21 levels due to his eligibility, his grandparents on his father’s side are from Co. Cork. He has won Player of the Year Awards for Ireland at both U17 & U19 levels.
As mentioned above Rice has also represented Ireland at Senior level, in recently friendlies against Turkey, USA and France. He won the Man of the Match Awards against both Turkey and USA.
It was much anticipated that Declan would be making his first competitive senior game for Ireland in the UEFA Nations League game versus Wales. However, when he wasn’t named in the squad questions were asked of Ireland Manager Martin O’Neill who then confirmed Rice had been contacted by England and was considering his options.
It was only a matter of time before England would approach Rice. He was born in London, is English and has been putting in noteworthy performances for West Ham. But exactly how far down the pecking order is he in terms of making a senior debut for England.
Looking at the current England squad, there are John Stones (24), Harry Maguire (25), Joe Gomez (21), Ben Chilwell (21), James Tarkowski (25) & Phil Jones (26), who can all play centre back. Most of these players have come through the underage setup with England.
Perhaps he could be utilised as a defensive midfielder? But then his competition would be Phil Jones (26), Jordan Henderson (28), Eric Dier (24) & Ruben Loftus-Cheek (22). All of who are coming off a fairly successful World Cup campaign.
It will be a challenge for Rice to break into the England setup but that could be a challenge he is ready to accept.
Rice is currently in talks with West Ham in regard to a new contract, which stalled earlier in the summer. Again, it brings into question the role of agents in the future of players. Is his agent hoping to use his predicament in these contract talks?
No doubt being an established England international would have greater sway in contract renewals in the future. However, Rice needs his contract renewed now. And would being an established Ireland International currently not have a greater impact than the possibility of being an England international in the future?
This dilemma also raises the question that if Declan Rice, having represented Ireland throughout underage and in senior friendlies, opts for England, how long before he does the same to West Ham?
Realistically there is only one single person who can make this decision and that is Declan himself.
He is both Irish and English and should be allowed to make his decision without pressure from anyone. And most importantly of all, his decision should be made purely on his footballing future and not money.
‘Irish blood, English heart, this I’m made of, there is no one on earth I’m afraid of, and no regime can buy or sell me’ – Morrissey ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’