Sports

Declan Rice: An unwanted kid to England star

By Oviri Kelvin, Sports Editor, Abuja

West Ham midfielder Declan Rice has developed to become one of the most impressive players in England in recent times, attracting interest from European top clubs.

Rice’s development in football from Chelsea’s academy to become a key player in West Ham and England’s Three Lions, is a story with certain unhappy epistles.

The 23 years old West Ham player left Chelsea at the age of 14 to join the East London club but was faced with challenges that were beyond his control.

As a kid, he had an uneven growth, smaller in stature than his usual age which made West Ham rethink considering him for a role.

However, Rice at the eventual moment until Hammers could ponder on his status as a player in the club, overcame the defect, sprouting in growth to stamp his importance to the club and country’s successes.

Rice was a formidable figure in England’s team during the EURO 2020 final, playing all seven matches in a superb form and continued in this clime in the 2021-2022 campaign season for West Ham.

“I was really small when I was a kid. Not too small, but smaller than most,” Rice told Sky Sports as West Ham hosted Arsenal at London Stadium.

“Then when I joined West Ham, when they were thinking about getting rid of me, I was in the middle of a growth spurt. I could play, but I just looked so gangly and unorthodox – it didn’t look right.

“I knew if they gave me the time, I had the ability and I could still play. It was just my running technique – I looked long in the legs and everything was off.

“Once they gave me that time and that space to grow into my body, everything else came through,” said Rice. “My personality as a kid, I always wanted to be a captain, I always cared about the game and wanted to learn. As I got older, that started to show through.

“When you’re younger, ability is one thing, but you have to want it the most. I feel like that gets you further. I hear so many ex-pros say it, that they come across players where they were better than them but they didn’t want it enough.

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“For me, I came across so many players who were better than me, but they didn’t have the mentality, the head, the heart to want it enough and keep pushing themselves. Luckily enough, in the end, I had both,” he added.

The England international being sought by Chelsea and top English clubs to help solve their midfield challenges ahead of next season’s campaign has featured 33 times in the 2021-22 Premier League season for the Hammers, scoring 1 goal and providing four assists.

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