Gareth Southgate: Declan Rice's form warrants England call
The Hammers midfielder continues his outstanding season by being included in Southgate’s senior Three Lions selection for the opening UEFA Euro 2020 Group A qualifiers against Czech Republic and Montenegro at the end of March.
Rice is eligible to represent England after his decision to switch international allegiance from Republic of Ireland was approved by FIFA in early March and Southgate had no hesitation in naming the 20-year-old at the first possible opportunity.
Declan's form his has been excellent and we like what we’ve seen in terms of his personality, his character and leadership qualities
“His form warrants it,” confirmed the manager, who filled the same deep-lying midfield and centre-back positions Rice has excelled in since making his West Ham debut in May 2017. “It’s obviously been a well-publicised situation with Declan and we have tracked him for quite a while.
“I think they’re really big decisions as when you’re asking a player to transfer associations, they’ve got to feel they have a future with you. That said, there was never any guarantees made to him as I think that was also important, as you’ve got to be playing well to get in the squad.
“But his form his has been excellent and we like what we’ve seen in terms of his personality, his character and leadership qualities.
“He can play as a holding midfield player and I’ve seen him play very well as a centre-back so I think he will fit in very well with the way that we work and I’m looking forward to welcoming him with us next week.”
Rice has started 27 of West Ham’s 30 Premier League matches this season and is statistically among the best holding midfielders in the country, according to the respected WhoScored.com analysis website, who note he has won the ball in the middle third of the pitch more times than any other English player.
Southgate has clearly been impressed and says it is now up to the player himself how far his talent can take him in an England shirt.
“There aren’t many players of his age playing as well as he is in the Premier League,” the England manager observed. “We’ve actually got a few good young players playing well in the Premier League.
“You can talk about talent a lot but in the end, mentality determines how far players go. What I like about our squad is that a lot of players have the mentality that they want to be amongst the best players in the world. That’s why we have a chance to progress and improve as a team.
“So how far a player can go is entirely up to them.”
Should Rice feature against either Czech Republic at Wembley on Friday 22 March or Montenegro in Podgorica on Monday 25 March, he will become the 42nd senior England international in the Club’s history.
If you would like to be at the Home of Football for what could be Rice’s senior England debut against the Czechs, tickets are available here.
Alternatively, both matches will be broadcast live in the UK by ITV.