Westley: West Ham have got a proper player on their hands
Terry Westley says the inclusion of Declan Rice in the senior England squad is a moment all at West Ham United’s Academy of Football can be proud of.
When Rice was released by Chelsea at the age of 14, it was the Hammers who immediately recognised his potential, signing the talented schoolboy just days later.
Showing the maturity and character that have since become his hallmarks, the teenager moved from the family home in Kingston-upon-Thames across London into Academy accommodation in Essex.
Over the last six years, Rice has developed into not just a fine young footballer, but a fine young man, with the result being he is now a Premier League regular and on the cusp of becoming a full England international.
Academy Manager and Head of Coaching and Player Development Westley, who oversaw the 20-year-old’s career from the time he arrived at Little Heath to the time he graduated to the first-team squad, has not been surprised by his progression.
Declan is just 20 and he is just going to get better. West Ham have got a proper player on their hands
“He deserves it,” Westley said. “For West Ham to have full England international on their books, it is great for the Club.
“You have seen how he has developed and been able to stay in the team. There are very few 20-year-olds who have played 50-plus Premier League games like he has so I can fully see why Gareth Southgate has picked him.
“The standout things for Declan are his mentality and his willingness to learn. He is just 20 and he is just going to get better. West Ham have got a proper player on their hands.”
Rice will join up with his new England teammates at St George’s Park following Saturday’s Premier League fixture with Huddersfield Town and Westley believes Southgate will not hesitate to pick the versatile Hammers youngster for the Three Lions’ opening UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying matches with Czech Republic and Montenegro.
“I think he will play,” he continued. “If he goes into the team and England win the two games this month then everybody will be saying, ‘This boy is here to stay’. If that happens then I can see him being a long-term player for the country.
“At the Academy, he was a centre-back who could come out with the ball. He way a joy. If you wanted to play out from the back and the opposition allowed you to have the ball, he was someone who could break the line into midfield. I could picture him playing as a No4, he could do it easily.
“I could see him later on moving back and looking a million dollars at centre-back. I think Gareth likes that. I think that is one of the things that Gareth can see. If England play three at the back, Declan could play on that right-hand side and come out with the ball or he could play as a No4. I think they are the two areas where Gareth has highlighted he could play.
“I think he could do both, I really do. If you put dynamic players around him who are going to burst into the box, that No4 role or mopping everything up and getting you playing.”