Rice: I couldn’t believe I was Man of the Match!
The ‘pinch yourself’ moments keep on coming for Declan Rice in his first full season of senior football.
Picked to start at Wembley as the Hammers took on Tottenham Hotspur in a London derby on Thursday, the 18-year-old turned in a mature and composed performance in the 1-1 draw – one which earned him the Premier League’s official Man of the Match award.
The defender’s reaction to the accolade was a mixture of pride and disbelief and his phenomenal development continues at great pace.
He explained: “When I got told I was Man of the Match on the way out, I thought ‘Really?!’ It’s an amazing feeling to pick up my first Man of the Match in the Premier League and hopefully it’s the first of many.
“As a team I thought we were excellent on Thursday. It was a well-deserved point and we were unlucky not to take three points from the game.
“I’ve played Spurs twice at Wembley now this season and taken a lot of experience from the two games. I never thought I’d play at Wembley as a young boy, so I’m very pleased with how I did on Thursday.”
The Hammers’ commitment and resilience was clear to see at the national stadium and Rice said the manager’s approach was spot on.
He continued: “We’ve all really taken to the manager and his backroom staff and we listen to what they say. We got the gameplan right on Thursday, we frustrated them, the fans got frustrated and it was great to get the draw.
“You have to hold their hands up for the goal and say ‘what a great strike’. Other than that I don’t remember them having too much. We put our bodies on the line and that’s all we could ask for.
“And for us, what a strike it was from Pedro! I was right behind it when he hit it and it’s just hit the top corner. I’m so happy for him, he’s a proper good guy and he’s doing really well for us.”
Next up is Sunday’s Emirates FA Cup trip to League One Shrewsbury Town and Rice is looking forward to his first taste of the competition.
“We went back in on Friday to get ready for the Shrewsbury game,” he added. “We had a recovery session on Friday, train on Saturday and then it’s a massive game on Sunday.
“We want to have a good cup run this year, so let’s go to Shrewsbury and get the win.”