Declan Rice admits he still breaks into a smile every time he is reminded of his Individual Performance of the Season award-winning display against Arsenal.
West Ham United’s outstanding young deep-lying midfielder was in sensational form against the Gunners back in January, capping a memorable afternoon with the only goal of the game.
Reflecting on the first senior strike of his career, the jubilant celebrations which followed and the game as a whole, Rice told West Ham TV he will never forget the experience.
“I think you can see in the celebration how much it meant to me!” the 20-year-old smiled. “I wanted to jump in with the fans, to be honest, because they’re the ones who support me every week and show me the love but I would have got a yellow card, so I didn’t do that!
“It was a special moment. The place erupted and I still smile about it to this day.”
It was not just his goal – a first-time finish into the top corner from Samir Nasri’s pass – that set Rice’s performance apart from the rest.
His defensive contribution was huge, with two tackles, two clearances, three interceptions and a blocked shot, while he also completed 36 of his 42 pass attempts at London Stadium.
Typically, the player himself was modest when asked for his reaction to winning the Individual Performance of the Season award at the recent 2019 Player Awards, brought to you by Betway in aid of the Academy.
“I was up against some other great performances; if you look, Felipe [Anderson]’s away at Southampton got us the win, Chicharito got us some wins, but the game I had against Arsenal is probably, to this day, the best performance I’ve ever had in my life!” he smiled.
“I got the goal, which was the icing on the cake, but alongside that there were the other things I did in the game which helped out the team.
“To be fair, I had missed a couple of chances earlier on in the season where it could have been me [who was the hero], but the Arsenal one, especially as it was a derby as well, 12.30 kick-off, live on Sky, everything was set up perfectly and I was just delighted to get the win and the goal and the win that day!”