Holland and Rice earn rave reviews for pre-season displays

Nikola Jurcevic


Nikola Jurcevic has predicted big things for Academy stars Declan Rice and Nathan Holland after both teenagers shone in Friday’s Betway Cup first leg with Werder Bremen.

Irish youngster Rice looked calm and composed in a new deep-lying midfield role, while Holland again caught the eye, this time in a position wide right of the three attacking midfielders.

West Ham fell behind to Johannes Eggestein’s first-half goal and were indebted to Adrian’s fine display, but the Hammers did improve as the game went on, particularly after the introduction of seven senior players, including debutant Marko Arnautovic, on the hour-mark.

Assistant manager Jurcevic admitted West Ham United were disappointed to lose 1-0 to their Bundesliga opponents. But he refused to be too downcast after a closely-fought 90 minutes in Scheverdingen, particularly as victory in Saturday’s second-leg in Lohne could still secure the Betway Cup for the east Londoners.

They are young, they are fresh, they have some quality and they have been a really positive surprise in this pre-season camp

Nikola Jurcevic

“It was a typical pre-season game,” the former Croatia international observed. “We played with two different teams, starting with many young players who did well, but we lost the game one-zero and I hope on Saturday we will be better.

“Also, the last 30 minutes played with more experienced players and I think in this time we were the better team on the pitch, but we didn’t score and lost the game one-zero.

“Altogether it was a good test and the result is not too important, but as I said before, I hope we will do better on Saturday and get a better result.”

As mentioned above, Jurcevic was particularly impressed with the contributions made by the talented Rice (pictured, below), who made his Premier League debut at Burnley in May, and exciting Holland, who arrived from Everton in January.

“Both of them were good today, but not only today, they were good during the training sessions and in some friendly games in Austria with Fulham and Sturm Graz,” he continued.

“They are young, they are fresh, they have some quality and they have been a really positive surprise in this pre-season camp.

“For me personally, Nathan was really good as he was in our last friendly games. Against Werder, he tried to go one-against-one in many situations. He’s a very dangerous player, very quick, but also very, very young. Together with Declan, he showed maybe we can think also about him.”


Declan Rice


Focusing on the final half-hour, when the likes of Pablo Zabaleta, Arthur Masuaku, Andre Ayew, Robert Snodgrass, Jose Fonte and Arnautovic entered the fray, Jurcevic felt the work being done on the training pitch was evident in the way West Ham moved the ball.

Now, he said, the Hammers need to find their finishing touch.

“We saw some positives in the second half in terms of ball possession, good ball circulation but we must make more chances to score goals,” he confirmed.

“For some players, for example Jose and Marko, this was their first game back in pre-season and we’re expecting some injured players to come back, so we’re optimistic for the future.”

West Ham noticeably kept the ball on the floor for long periods, perhaps suggesting a change in playing style with the absence of the injured Andy Carroll and the arrivals of Chicharito and Arnautovic.

“First we will see how our system will be with Chicharito because we also have Marko Arnautovic, but without Carroll we must change our style because we don’t have one big centre forward who plays mostly in the box, enabling us to play the long ball,” Jurcevic added.

“These players have quality and I hope we will be better than last year.”