How can England’s Declan Rice silence the doubters?

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10: Oleksandr Zinchenko of Manchester City tackles Declan Rice of West Ham United during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester City at London Stadium on August 10, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10: Oleksandr Zinchenko of Manchester City tackles Declan Rice of West Ham United during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester City at London Stadium on August 10, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images) /
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Now that the international break has passed us by, it seems like a good time to reflect on one of West Ham’s star players, as he played in every minute of England’s two qualifying fixtures.

West Ham’s Declan Rice has proved to be a mainstay in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI for England ever since his switch of allegiances from the Republic of Ireland to the three lions.

But with this move came more responsibility. Rather than looking like the best player in a poor ROI team, he now faces the task of stepping up to play on the same wavelength as the players around him; such as Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane.

England’s fourth goal on Tuesday night against Kosovo was a direct sign of him doing just that. Rice used his strength to shove a Kosovo player off the ball and make a tackle, which resulted in England breaking up the pitch and ultimately scoring. Yet this largely went unnoticed.

Instead, uber critical England fans across social media chose to lambast Rice for a misplaced pass early in the second half, resulting in a second Kosovo goal on the night.

The 20-year-old received further unjust criticism just three days earlier as he played his part in a 4-0 victory over Bulgaria at Wembley for not being “expansive” enough in possession of the ball.

And while even Rice himself would likely admit to needing to improve with the ball at his feet, it just goes to show how people are overlooking what his role in the England side actually is.

West Ham’s number 41 has so far made 16 tackles and interceptions during England’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, more than anyone else in the squad.

To add to this, against Bulgaria solely, he completed more forward passes than any other England player, proving that he does try to progress the ball as often as he can when in possession.

Manuel Pellegrini openly moved Rice into the midfield holding role at West Ham despite his lack of experience in that position and has proved a mainstay ever since.

Gareth Southgate pled for him to change his green jersey to a white one and has now successfully nailed down a starting spot for his country too.

It is easy to forget how young Rice is, given how far he has progressed in such a short period of time. If he continues to perform at the rate that he has been doing over the last two seasons, the stars will naturally align for this talented young man.