Watching West Ham’s performances over the last month, I have been so impressed with Declan Rice. Even more than usual.
Declan has always been consistent ever since he first stepped in to the first team. Of course there were a couple of minor blips along the way, but once he had firmly established himself as a first team regular, it became unusual to see him play badly.
Mark Noble on the other hand has been erratic for several seasons, often being either an 8 or 9 out of ten or a 3 or 4. Unfortunately the 3’s and 4’s are now far outweighing the 8’s and 9’s.
It’s understandable, he’s approaching 33 and has been a first team player for 15 years. With so much football under his belt and the amount that he has had to shoulder over the years, a decline was inevitable. What hasn’t happened so far is West Ham planning ahead and phasing Noble out of the team for his own benefit as much as the clubs. Perhaps we are beginning to see that happening now.
What has been very apparent to me this month is how much Declan Rice has stepped up and attempted to shoulder the burden of an under-performing team himself. At the rate he’s going, there won’t be any more questions about his all round game. We’re now starting to see him marauding forward with power and becoming a real goal threat, we’re seeing him pop up on either wing and putting in some decent crosses. We’re seeing some fantastic long-range passing. Never have I witnessed a player adapt and develop like Declan Rice has over the past two years.
What impresses me most about him is his attitude.
He was always clearly a strong character, but given West Ham’s plight this season, perhaps it might have been expected to see Rice lose interest and distract himself with future goals and ambitions. He’s clearly too good to play in the Championship, a very real possibility for West Ham if things don’t change.
Instead, I’ve seen a more determined Declan Rice, somebody who is hurting like the fans and somebody who is giving every last drop of energy to help the club avoid relegation. He is the man leading by example and he is the man who is inspiring me.
Conversely, Mark Noble looks just as worn out by all the West Ham drama as the fans. He is a fan after all! Some of his recent comments seem to suggest that he no longer wants to shoulder the massive responsibility of being Mr West Ham. So perhaps its time to start the transition to his successor.
I’m not even sure who the vice-captain currently is. Winston Reid was at one time, this season we’ve seen Pablo Zabaleta and Aaron Cresswell take over captains duties, even Rice himself has worn the captains armband and I think that’s where it should settle.
It’s time to make it official, Declan Rice should be vice-captain for the rest of the season and promoted to team captain at the end of the season. That’s assuming we stay up of course, and assuming he hasn’t had enough of playing relegation football. Mark Noble should become club captain and feature less prominently in the first team going forward.
The big question of course will be whether we remain a Premier League side for the 20/21 season. If we do manage to stay up, Declan will have options.
I have no doubt that there will be clubs interested in his services. Perhaps the West Ham captaincy and a bumper pay increase will be just enough to see him remain a hammer for a couple more seasons. He’s only just turned 21 and he still has time before a move to a bigger club is necessary for his career. We should do all we can to convince him that right now, West Ham is still the best place for him to be.
Relegation however will see one of our best ever academy graduates slip through our hands and we will be helpless to do anything about it.