While his talent, attitude and character have been central to his successful career so far, Declan Rice knows he would not have made it to the West Ham United first team without the support of those around him.
From managers and coaches to teammates and fans to family and friends, the 19-year-old has received valuable backing from a wide variety of sources during his formative years.
All that encouragement and guidance has paid off in the shape of 51 first-team appearances for the Hammers, three senior international caps and, on Friday, the signing of a new long-term contract until the summer of 2024.
For Rice himself, the feeling that he is surrounded by people who want the best for him at West Ham was key to his decision to pledge his future to the Club.
“It is key and I think that’s always been the case,” he confirmed. “With the likes of Nobes and Cress, the senior players who know what it’s about, they’ve always said ‘Just keep your head down and don’t let anything distract you and it will come in the end’.
“To be fair, the manager [Manuel Pellegrini] has been great as well. When we spoke at the start of the season, he said ‘Keep working hard, it will come’ and when he told me last week that the contract would be done this week, I could not believe it, I was really buzzing and couldn’t wait to sign.”
The managers and Academy Directors I’ve had have probably picked me because I’m reliable, I give everything for 95 minutes and I leave nothing on the pitch
Academy Director Terry Westley and coaches Liam Manning and Mark Phillips all played their part in helping Rice make the most of his considerable talents, before passing him on to the first-team squad during the 2016/17 season.
The teenager thrived under Slaven Bilic, David Moyes and, since the summer, Manuel Pellegrini, who has urged him to play to his strengths whenever he steps on the pitch.
“He has just said to me before every game, with the position I’m playing in, to keep the ball simple and I think that’s what my game is – I do the simple things really well, read the game and everything you need in that position, I think I bring it to the table and help the team,” he observed.
“That’s why the managers and Academy Directors I’ve had have probably picked me, because I’m reliable, I give everything for 95 minutes and I leave nothing on the pitch.”
And Rice’s relentless commitment to be the best he can be has sat well with the Claret and Blue Army, whose wish for the young midfielder to be rewarded came true three days after Christmas. The admiration is mutual.
“I think the fans, in my opinion, are the best in the league,” said Rice. “They travel home and away, wherever it is, and they put all their hard-earned money into watching us, wherever that may be.
“I really appreciate what they do for us as players because it really does give us a boost. They might not realise that, but even the little things like us signing autographs or taking pictures makes their day as well by giving back to them.
“They’ve been excellent to me since I pulled on the West Ham shirt, so I’m delighted to have signed and now I’m giving them a bit more happiness over Christmas and the New Year.”