20-year-old West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice recently pledged his international future to England, despite having previously represented the Republic of Ireland in three friendly matches, as reported by the BBC.
Born in London – but eligible for Ireland due to having Irish grandparents – the young defensive midfielder will now be determined to justify his decision by breaking into Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions setup.
Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini certainly believes that Rice ought to be in the England manager’s plans.
As quoted by the club’s official website, the Irons’ Chilean coach said that Rice “is ready to play for England. We are just starting the development of him as a player. But at this moment his performances are better than every holding midfielder.”
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The 65-year-old former Manchester City boss clarified his final point, saying “I am talking about the English players.” He clearly believes that the West Ham academy graduate is destined for big things though, adding: “we are just starting to see what will be with Declan in the future.”
Pellegrini has demonstrated a huge amount of faith in Rice with these comments. Such praise is not unwarranted either – the youngster has been a revelation this season at the London Stadium, making himself one of the east London club’s most important players.
However, the manager has also taken a risk with this statement. Whilst Rice may well get a confidence boost from his words, they also apply additional pressure. Calling him one of the best in the country will raise the expectation levels that people have of Rice, which could ultimately have a negative impact on his development.
As a young player, it would be perfectly normal for the midfielder to show some inconsistency or suffer fluctuations in form. Following Pellegrini’s words, if this now happens to Rice he may be more harshly judged than he otherwise would be without the additional hype added by his coach.