Declan Rice has all the traits to have a massive future in this game.
What a world wind of a week this young lad has had. Firstly, named U19 Player of the Year at the FAI Awards. Then, received his first senior cap for the Republic of Ireland, where he was named Man of the Match. Followed by playing for the U21’s last night, helping them win to stay on course to qualify for the European Championships. Most importantly though he came through all this injury free – Result!
“There is no present or future-only the past, happening over and over again-now.” – Eugene O’Neill, A Moon for the Misbegotten
What I have noticed about Rice is his composure, his technical ability, he can tackle, he is very vocal, he has good distribution and he likes to play the ball on the ground. This is exactly what got me liking him to Rio Ferdinand when he was first breaking into the team.
It’s not just his footballing attributes which are akin to Rio’s though, both players made their league debuts aged 17 on the last game of the season. Ferdinand v Sheffield Wednesday in the 1995-96 season, Rice v Burnley in the 2016-17 season. Both had their break through seasons the following year. Ferdinand appearing 15 times scoring 2 goals, Rice 18 times no goals (so far). Both made their International debuts aged 19. Ferdinand in a friendly v Cameroon, Rice in a friendly v Turkey. Ferdinand went on to win Hammer of the Year in his first full season, so no pressure Declan.
I, like Alf Gasparro’s recent comments on one of his blogs, believe ‘he alone should be in every starting line up now’. I don’t care if it’s in a back 4, back 3 or as defensive midfielder as he has proven he can play any of these positions. He has shown his quality and is way beyond his young age in terms of ability. He has shown leadership in the games I have seen him play. You can see him talking to his teammates, organising the defence and the players around him. We will need this type of player if we are to stay safe from relegation.
Most of Rio’s 15 appearances in his breakthrough season came in the run-in. It’s no coincidence the team only lost 3 of their last 13 games once Rio became a permanent fixture in the starting 11, with one of those defeats when he didn’t play! West Ham finished that season in 14th position with 42pts. Before Rio came into the starting 11 we were in 18th with 22pts. We are currently 17th with 30pts.
Rice needs to be a permanent fixture in our starting 11 for this season’s run-in and hopefully the past can happen again.
He is our future and that future has to be in the Premiership.