The Remarkable Rise of Declan Rice
Unless you were paying very close attention to the youth set-ups for Ireland or West Ham, London-born Declan Rice is unlikely to have made a blip on your radar.
At the Football Association of Ireland, FAI, Awards, in 2017, Rice was named the U17 Player of the Year. At the same event this year he picked up the equivalent accolade for the U19 group. If his thus-far meteoric rise is an indication of things to come, then Ireland may well not be required to give their Senior International Young Player of the Year prize to a 25-year old player the next time!
An Excellent Start to a Promising Career
Rice only turned 19-years old in January, although he is already garnering attention from the punters who enjoy the soccer betting Australia has to offer. He made his Premier League debut for West Ham in a game against Burnley as a late substitute for the final day of the last season.
He was called up to start training with the Irish senior team just a few days later, and his excitement at the chance to play international football was evident.
Steady Progress Since Then
Rice has made 23 appearances in all the games for West Ham’s senior side over the course of this season, including seven starts for the Premier League. He made an excellent show at Wembley last January, and managed to keep Harry Kane, Tottenham’s star player, quiet as a mouse as his club came through with an unlikely draw of 1 – 1.
An Increase in Pay on the Cards
Perhaps because they are aware of the possibility of losing him to a larger team, recent reports have indicated that Rice, widely considered to be one of the best young players for his age group in Europe, is likely to be offered a considerable wage increase by the Hammers.
Additionally, what was remarkable when Rice spoke at the RTÉ awards ceremony was that, despite his inexperience, he seemed very relaxed while answering questions and engaging with journalists.
An Irish Player Since the U16 Level
Rice has been playing football for Ireland since the Under-16 level, after he was recruited by the FAI’s scout Mark O’Toole, based in England, who the player has in the past described as something of a father figure.
Poor experiences involving others have seen a sense of paranoia regarding English-born players taking hold, and their supposed allegiance -or lack thereof- to Ireland has been very closely questioned. But, amidst rumours that his progress was being monitored by Gareth Southgate, Rice was happy to reaffirm his commitment to Ireland and dismissed any suggestions that he would, or could, perform a u-turn of the kind Jack Grealish executed.
And his international debut against Turkey, competing alongside footballers he barely knew and had never played with before, Rice produced a striking man-of-the-match display. And his proud father was right there to cheer him on, as he has been for the majority of matches his son has taken part in.