Winning at the London Football Awards is just crazy - Rice


For Declan Rice, lifting the Young Player of the Year trophy at Thursday evening’s London Football Awards was the latest milestone in a ‘surreal’ two years. 

The 20-year-old claimed the illustrious accolade at the prestigious footballing event at Battersea Evolution last night, seeing off Crystal Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaki, Arsenal’s Matteo Guendouzi, Karlan Grant of Charlton Athletic and Eberechi Eze of Queens Park Rangers to be named the stand-out player under 21-years-old in London.

After being presented with the honour by fellow Hammers Academy graduate and Club legend Tony Cottee, a visibly delighted Rice found it hard to put his joy into words.

“It’s hard to describe what I’m feeling, to be honest,” he told West Ham TV. “It’s just crazy to win this award. 

“The likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli have won this. Ryan Sessegnon won it last year. To now have my name on this award is very special for me and my family. 

“The nominees I was up against are all having unbelievable seasons and excellent years. So, to come out on top and win the award above them is very special to me.”

Declan Rice poses with Tony Cottee and a representative from award sponsor Zeus Capital after winning the Young Player of the Year at the London Football Awards 2019. Credit: Action Images

Less than 24 months ago Rice, then a 17-year-old, fresh-faced youngster from the West Ham United Academy, stepped out on a Premier League pitch for the first time, playing the final moments of the 2016/17 campaign as the Hammers saw out a 2-1 win away to Burnley. 

Since that sunny afternoon Rice has made 60 senior appearances in Claret and Blue, and secured many more for the future after putting pen to paper on a five-and-a-half-year deal in December, keeping him with the Irons until 2024. 

The recognition of his talent and ability at Thursday’s award ceremony was something Rice never saw coming. He certainly did not even dare to dream of such an occurrence when he replaced Edimilson Fernandes at Turf Moor for his West Ham debut.

I’ve made 60 appearances for West Ham and I’m stood here with this award. It’s all pretty surreal, to be honest!

Declan Rice

“It’s mad! I never would have thought of it,” Rice continued. “When I made my debut, it was a special moment, and no one could take that away from me; I was a Premier League player. 

Credit: Action Images

“Now I’ve made 60 appearances for West Ham and I’m stood here with this award. It’s all pretty surreal, to be honest. 

“I put it down to hard work and having a good family around me, and a good team of people. My teammates are also pushing me to get better every day. I’m thankful to everyone. It’s been an amazing start to 2019.”

When Rice took to the stage to collect his honour, the No41 thanked his parents, his brothers, his girlfriend, and his teammates for their continued support. 

The Academy graduate also made special mention of manager Manuel Pellegrini, expressing his gratitude to the Chilean for his trust in Rice’s ability and work with him on the training pitches at Rush Green.

The youngster, having played just 45 minutes in West Ham’s first four Premier League matches under the Chilean, has played the full 90 minutes in each of the following 24 Premier League games.

At just 20-years-old, Rice is one of Pellegrini’s biggest players.

“Last season I was in centre-back, but this season the manager has pushed me into midfield,” Rice explained. “He’s still on to me and there is still so much to improve on, but I just want to thank him for the trust he has put in me and the belief. 

“I’m 20-years-old but he’s played me for the last 24 Premier League games, and it shows that if you train well and work hard, you’ll get your chance. Ben Johnson found that against Manchester City. He chucked Johno in because he has been doing really well. 

“Massive credit to the manager and his assistants; they’ve shown their belief in me and I’m really grateful to them.”