Declan Rice is determined to make the most of his opportunity should Slaven Bilic select him for tonight’s Carabao Cup third-round tie with Bolton Wanderers.
The 18-year-old started West Ham United’s opening four matches of the 2017/18 season, including the second-round victory at Cheltenham Town, before dropping to the substitutes’ bench for the Premier League fixtures with Huddersfield Town and West Bromwich Albion.
While his time on the pitch may have reduced, Rice is in line for another first-team appearance against Bolton on Tuesday evening, and is ready to take his chance to impress his manager once again.
“This season has gone so quickly,” he told the Official Matchday Programme. “I gave it everything in pre-season and the manager had plans for me and has played me, so I’m over the moon.
“Tonight’s is an important game in the Carabao Cup and we want to win. Hopefully I can play and help us get through to the next round.”
Tonight’s is an important game in the Carabao Cup and we want to win
In a revealing interview, Rice revealed how he had joined Chelsea almost by chance as a nine-year-old, when his cousin invited him along for a trial, before quickly getting over the shock of being released at the age of 14.
The south west London-born youngster went on to praise his Academy of Football coaches for developing and improving him to the point where Bilic handed him a first-team debut at Burnley in May.
Rice has since started against Manchester United, Southampton and Newcastle United in the top flight, made his Republic of Ireland U21 debut and is highly thought of by his coaches, teammates and fans for his calm and assured presence, leadership and technical ability.
“West Ham have a tradition of playing out from the back and the coaches have always encouraged me to express myself,” he said. “When I moved back into defence, they told me to stick to my own game, rather than hit the ball long, and it’s helped me massively.
“I was on the bench a couple of times [late last season] and I thought I might get a chance and Burnley was my time to be brought on. I got about five minutes and touched the ball a few times, so I was well happy.”
To read Declan’s Official Matchday Programme interview in full, and find out which two former England internationals are mentoring him, pick up your copy at London Stadium before tonight’s game, or alternatively order your copy online here.
Alternatively, you can download the digital issue now for just £1.99.