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Declan Rice has proved two critics wrong since his debut three years ago

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Back in April 2018, West Ham were drawing 1-1 with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium as they plotted a path towards Premier League survival under David Moyes.

There were just nine minutes left on the clock and the visitors looked to be hanging on for a precious point when Aaron Ramsey played in a seemingly innocuous cross into the box.

A 19-year-old Declan Rice was there in the middle, making his tenth Premier League start and was expected to simply head the ball away.

He didn’t.

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Rice ducked out of the way, maybe having got a call from the rapidly declining Joe Hart in goal and the ball nestled in the far corner without another soul touching it. The Hammers went on to implode and they were beaten 4-1.

After the game, boss Moyes had some harsh words for Rice.

“Look, we've all been young players. He makes a really poor decision for the second goal. I hope he learns from it because he’s got big potential, but it really flattened the team," he said.

David Moyes with Declan Rice and Mark Noble of West Ham (Image: Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images)

“I don’t think there was (a breakdown in communication). Anyway if there was, if you’re a centre-back – and I’ve been one – if the ball’s getting played into the box the last thing you do is let it go.

“Talk about it after, head it clear. What you do is you head the ball clear and it doesn’t really matter. It’s not as if it was a massive jump. Why would you duck and leave it?”

Rice himself has admitted that harsh words from Moyes and being unceremoniously dropped by Manuel Pellegrini early in the Chilean’s reign, have helped him become a better player. He's moved into midfield since thyat day at the Emirates when it came quite clear he possessed excellent technique on the ball and a vastly underrated range of passing.

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In October 2019, Rice reflected on the time Moyes gave him a rollocking in the media, saying: 'You know what, he was right to hammer me.

“I ducked for the ball and it's gone in the back of the net. It was one of my early league starts and he absolutely grilled me in front of the lads.

'I just sat there and took it but looking back on it now I think you need those moments, something to make you realise you have to get better. You can't be thinking after a few games that you're in.

Declan Rice acknowledges the West Ham fans. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

“You are going to get hit with something, and when I made that mistake against Arsenal it was kind of a reality check.

“It was tough when Moyesy was grilling me in the dressing room, it hurt. But it was the right thing to do because I needed to be told.”

His first taste of the downside of being a footballer came in August 2017. A then 18-year-old Rice lost the ball in midfield and allowed Newcastle to pour forward and Joselu eventually poked home the opening goal in a 3-0 win at St James' Park.

West Ham during the break

"We made a mistake that led to their first goal and it gave them a boost," bemoaned former manager Slaven Bilic post-match after he brutally hooked Rice off at half time, bringing on Manuel Lanzini. The Croat offered to resign in the aftermath of the defeat on the flight back to London but the Hammers board turned it down.

Since being given a public dressing down by managers, Rice has gone on to represent England regularly and has already passed 100 appearances for the Hammers as well to establish himself as one of the best youngsters in the Premier League.

He’s the first name on the team sheet every week and is indispensable to the Hammers. As often is the case, that has seen him linked with moves away from east London.

Declan Rice in action against Bulgaria (Image: Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)

Chelsea and Manchester United have been keeping tabs on him but West Ham won’t sell Rice for less than £70million, a figure unlikely to be reached by anyone in a post Covid-19 transfer window.

No Premier League midfielder has made more interceptions this season than Rice, who has made 61 in total and he has bailed out some of his struggling teammates more than once in that span.

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Come February 2020 and with Moyes back at the club, Rice has certainly changed the manager’s perception of him.

“In my mind he is arguably the best holding midfield player in the country and the best thing about Declan is he will get better,” Moyes said a month before football was ground to a halt amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Declan is carrying a lot of the team at the moment and he’s the one who will carry on from Mark Noble when it comes to an end for him.”

From being hooked at half time, to being called out ducking out of the way of a cross, to then carrying the team through yet another tumultuous campaign at London Stadium just goes to show hard far Rice has come in such a short space of time - and what he could potentially go on to achieve in the future.




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