Declan Rice says the ‘close’ support structure at West Ham United has been a major reason behind his breakout season in Claret and Blue.
The teenager made it back-to-back Young Hammer of the Year awards this week, adding another accolade to a campaign that has seen him make 27 first-team appearances and a senior debut for the Republic of Ireland national team.
While Rice’s own attitude and talent have shone through, the ball-playing centre-half was quick to express his gratitude for the support and mentoring he has received both before and during this standout season, from his old Academy coaches, first-team staff and teammates alike.
“You’ve only got to go into the Academy to see how much work is going. There are so many top people there working. Everyone has got an individual mentor and they are bringing top players through and now we are beating Manchester City and Manchester United, which shows how well we’re doing as an Academy.
“Credit to Terry Westley and his staff – Liam Manning, Steve Potts and Mark Phillips – for giving loads of players their opportunities. He’s always putting good words in and trying to make you better as player. A massive thank you to all them for getting me to this point.”
Rice graduated/ from the U23s to the first-team squad at the end of last season and his character, ability and willingness to learn have seen his older colleagues quickly accept the 19-year-old into the dressing room.
Among those who have been most welcoming has been Hammer of the Year Marko Arnautovic, who lives near to Rice’s family home in west London and often shares the morning drive into Rush Green with his young teammate.
“All of the boys have been there for me and I think they’re pleased to see a youngster come through,” Rice revealed. “To be honest, I’ve been lucky to come through with this group of lads, who all look after me and have all been in my position, the likes of Joe Hart, Nobes, Ginge and Andy Carroll, everyone really.
“That’s the thing about this squad. We’re all so close that anyone can go to anyone. It’s great to be part of this squad and I can’t wait to be part of it for a long time in the future.
“Marko has been like a brother to me. He’s been excellent. We live quite close to each other and he sometimes brings me into training and we’ve got on really well since pre-season. Credit to him. He’s been fantastic this year and he deserves everything he gets.”