'Rice is one of the best young centre-backs in England' - Westley

Rice in training


Academy Director Terry Westley labelled Declan Rice as one of the best young central defenders in the country after West Ham United’s PL2 side were held to a 0-0 draw at Chelsea on Sunday afternoon.

Rice, who was playing just his second Premier League 2 fixture of the season, produced a man of the match performance and, wearing the captain’s armband, led his side superbly as they secured a first clean sheet since the opening day of the season.

“There was one stand out player on the pitch today and that was Declan Rice.” Terry Westley explained.

“His whole demeanour, the way he goes about the game, the way he drives the team and his all-round ability, which covers all of that – he was the stand out player on both sides.”

The Republic of Ireland international received high praise for his performances towards the end of the 2016/17 campaign, eventually making his First Team debut on the final day of the Premier League season. And his form has continued in to this term where he has established himself as a regular in Slaven Bilic’s match day squads – all at just 18 years of age.

“If there is a better young centre-back in the country, I haven’t seen him, at least not playing in under-23 football” said Westley.

Rice was one of a number of top performers in Hampshire as West Ham controlled much of the possession against a highly-rated young Chelsea outfit. Dan Kemp, Nathan Holland, Sead Haksabanovic and Conor Coventry all impressed and for Westley, there was just one thing missing.

“I think we edged the game and if you’re coming to Chelsea and you’re disappointed that you haven’t won, it shows the strides we’ve come.

“Our four attacking players were too much for them, I can’t remember Nathan Trott having to make a save. If I was critical, our final ball in to the box wasn’t quite good enough to open them up today.”

“Holland, Kemp and Sead [Haksabanovic] in particular really caused them grief and it would have been nice to round it off with a win but you have to learn to stay in the game as well.”