In defence of Declan Rice – a 20-year-old West Ham star who will make mistakes like anyone else

In defence of Declan Rice – a 20-year-old West Ham star who will make mistakes like anyone else





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Declan Rice is a 20-year-old footballer making his way in the professional game with five England caps to his name but already more than 60 appearances for West Ham.

He will make mistakes, name me a 20-year-old who hasn’t.

Rice is coming in for a lot of criticism because he misplaced a pass in England’s 5-3 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Kosovo on Tuesday night. Yes it was an error, but Michael Keane made as big a one too. Footballers make mistakes, it can happen.

The Hammers midfielder played the full 90 minutes on Tuesday, completed 92 per cent of his passes, a joint team high two tackles, two interceptions, one block and four clearances. He played the 90 minutes against Bulgaria too with a 97 per cent pass success rate, completed a team-high four tackles

It was one of Rice’s tackles in the defensive third on Tuesday – which is his job – that led to England breaking and scoring a fourth goal in the first half through Jadon Sancho’s strike.

 

Making mistakes when you’re a young player comes with the territory – as does the criticism from the FIFA generation on Twitter – and Rice has been through it before.

Hauled off at half time of the 3-0 defeat at Newcastle the season before last, and the same again last campaign during the Liverpool defeat on opening weekend.

He’s bounced back superbly from both setbacks. So much so that as soon as he pledged international allegiance to England, he was immediately called up and hasn’t been left out of a squad since.

Declan Rice in action for England

Gareth Southgate named the same midfield three of Rice, Jordan Henderson and Ross Barkley for the two recent qualifiers this past week so that is a clear indicator as to who he sees playing there in the actual tournament itself.

“He doesn’t pass forward” they say. “He doesn’t create chances” they say.

Rice’s job is a defensive midfielder, to sit just in front of the back four, break up play and find a teammate to get them moving. That’s his job. It’s not to go on mazy runs, nutmeg five players like Felipe Anderson then smash in a 25-yarder.

Perhaps the criticism after the Bulgaria game at Wembley led Rice to tell reporters after the Kosovo win: “In the second half I made a mistake and that has taken the gloss off it for me.

Declan Rice plays a pass

“A mistake from myself, sloppy, I could have done better there and it takes the gloss off it.

“Now I am thinking I am not that happy, I have made a mistake they have scored, (Harry) Maguire’s given a penalty away, Keano (Michael Keane) made a mistake.

“But it is part and parcel, we are never going to be perfect.”

 

Putting himself out front and centre like that might be good for the media but maybe not so much for Rice himself. He’s a talkative chap, active on social media and conducts plenty of interviews.

It might take someone like Mark Noble to tell him to reign it in a tad and focus on his game, which you know Rice will do because he’s already recovered from setbacks.

Rice has an enormous ceiling. Manuel Pellegrini knows it, West Ham fans who watch him every week know it as well.  Rice did his job for England in both games and that should be the end of it, irrelevant of the misplaced pass against Kosovo.

He just won’t get the credit because he doesn’t pass forward enough.






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