'Declan Rice’s a very talented player' says Boy of '86 Walford

Steve Walford during his time on the Republic of Ireland coaching staff


Boy of ‘86 Steve Walford knows better than almost anybody that Declan Rice is ready to play international football.

The former Hammer coached Rice during his time as part of Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland coaching set-up, prior to the West Ham United youngster’s decision to switch his registration from the Boys in Green to the Three Lions of England.

Walford, who was part of John Lyall’s side which secured a record-breaking third-place top-flight finish in 1985/86 and played 147 times in Claret and Blue between 1983-87, was hugely impressed by what he saw in the teenage Rice, who could make his England debut against Czech Republic at Wembley on Friday evening.

“Declan Rice’s a very talented player,” he acknowledged. “He’s got two good feet, heads a ball and possesses both pace and composure. He can play that midfield role blind-folded but, ultimately, I’d love to see Declan turn himself into a top-quality centre-half for West Ham.”

He’s got two good feet, heads a ball and possesses both pace and composure

Steve Walford

Walford, who came through the ranks at Tottenham Hotspur before winning the FA Cup with Arsenal in 1979, thoroughly enjoyed his four seasons in Claret and Blue and retains a keen interest in the Irons.

“Hopefully, they’ll keep that momentum going and press for a top six spot next year,” concluded Walford, who enjoyed an emotional evening at London Stadium as his former captain and team-mate cut the ribbon on the Billy Bonds Stand ahead of the Premier League win over Newcastle United on Saturday 2 March.

“All in all, there are some really good players at the club now and, as a team, they’ve really progressed this season, too. The Hammers are doing alright, aren’t they? 

“It was great to see Bill get that recognition he truly deserves and the night brought back lots of fond memories.

“As a player, I spent longer at this football club than anywhere else and I love coming back because I've got so much affection for West Ham United."