Declan Rice: West Ham captain can bow out a hero in European final

Young West Ham supporters who braved the perilous journey from London to Prague via Manchester for the Europa Conference League final choose just one song to sing during the flight.

It is a song that will be sung a lot before and during the game on Wednesday at Eden Arena against Serie A team Fiorentina, which will determine if West Ham wins their first significant title since 1980.

Declan Rice, just one more year please.

But those supporters are aware, as is everyone else, that their wish is unlikely to come true.

Whatever the outcome, Rice’s final game for West Ham is probably in this one.

Rice is prepared to take one of the numerous offers coming his way from some of the best teams in the league, nine years after he joined them as a 14-year-old after Chelsea rejected him. He has made 245 games, including this final, won three club player of the year awards, served as captain for a season, and made 245 appearances overall.

Rice is aware of his capacity for valor.

The great World Cup winner Bobby Moore is the only person to have led West Ham to victory in a European final. Billy Bonds, a defender who is indelible in the club’s history as one of their best, is the only other player to have led the Hammers to victory in any final.

Rice will rightfully take his spot with that group if West Ham defeats Fiorentina.

In an interview with the West Ham website, he declared, “It would be my biggest achievement in football so far, 100%.”

Lifting that trophy would mean the world, especially if you were with the guys. You’d want to raise it with them, see their smiles return, and then see our families holding the trophy.

We are in control of it. It’s an opportunity to go and leave a lasting impression on everyone involved—the manager and players alike.

Rice’s rise to prominence

I described how Rice attracted Wenger’s eye in an article published on this website in March 2019 during an Under-18s game taking place at Arsenal’s London Colney training facility.

Ironically, if not unexpectedly, Rice might be visiting Colney on an almost daily basis come next season if West Ham’s valuation of the England midfielder, which is expected to be close to £100 million, matches Arsenal’s long-standing interest in the 24-year-old.

It has not been simple for Rice to become famous.

Before they determined he was not for them, he spent eight years in the Chelsea academy.

Even West Ham thought he had something, but they weren’t entirely certain. The only athlete in his year group who received a scholarship without the promise of a professional deal was Rice.

 

However, Rice listened to his coaches and worked on the areas where he was told to improve then as he does now.

In contrast to several of his coaches, Matthew Upson wants to emphasize that his role in Rice’s career was modest.

When the two met at West Ham, the former England defender was requested to be Rice’s mentor.

Working with him was great, Upson told BBC Sport. He was quite open. He was able to accept feedback or criticism. He was unaffected by it. He responded to everything in such a positive way, and he was intelligent enough to take what he learned and apply it to his game, which takes true skill.

When I worked with Declan, his abilities were already at a very high level. You could tell that he had what it took to excel in his character. He is the one in the picture. That hasn’t been added or provided to him, either. Just Declan said that. That is what makes him special.

He has put a lot of physical and technical practice into his game. He was added to the starting lineup by David Moyes. Like with every football player, numerous others have contributed in small ways. But Declan’s greatest strength is that he was able to incorporate everything and improve himself.

It was impressive to see how simple Rice makes it appear when watching West Ham practice before the Fiorentina game.

Given that cameras were let in, Tuesday’s session was not the most rigorous or tactical—but it was still impressive how much room Rice was able to find for himself, even in an 11-a-side game on half a pitch.

He once shifted out wide to gain control of the ball before whipping in a superbly timed cross from the left wing for Thilo Kehrer to head home. Within a minute, he had given Michail Antonio the chance to convert a low cross from close range.

He closes space down and covers land swiftly more than anything else.

For his age, he plays with a lot of maturity, according to Upson. He is an incredibly capable manager of responsibility, which is why he served as the Premier League captain at such a young age.

“Players typically don’t develop their skills at that position until they are in their late 20s. Declan is currently playing at a level that is outstanding for someone his age.

Rice sets the tone and exemplifies leadership:

After two seasons of – largely – success at a club where expectations are not on par with those he is expected to join, Upson thinks Rice will benefit from West Ham’s struggles in the Premier League this year because it has taught him more about handling pressure on and off the field.

Few West Ham fans would begrudge Rice his decision, even if their call for “one more year” is ignored. Furthermore, he could hardly be accused of coasting through the season or alienating the team.

Rice was present for the unveiling of the Mark Noble memorial pitch at the club’s academy in Chadwell Heath a year ago.

Rice had a major role in the celebrations in the locker rooms at Emirates Stadium after West Ham won the FA Youth Cup against Arsenal in April.

He now has a second job. One more time, he will put the jersey on before putting his hand through the captain’s armband and getting ready to leave.

Many leaders set an example through their play, according to Upson. “But they might not be talkative or engaging in the changing room.

Declan’s performance “sets the tone, but he also has the personality, voice, and character to go with it.

Declan will undoubtedly consider his own performance as an individual. The only thing he can actually handle is that.

“He must next consider how he can influence others. That primarily results from him setting an excellent example by initiating the first pressure, the first tackle, and other game-related actions.

As a result, sealing it with a victory resulted. If you place too much emphasis on that, you risk losing sight of what will ultimately determine the outcome of the game—your own performance and the impact you have on your teammates.

His upcoming action? The unknown. But he has the ability to succeed at the very top of the game.

 

 

 

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