Rice: I’ve loved every minute of my England experience
Declan Rice added another ‘pinch yourself’ moment to an already growing list on Monday night when Gareth Southgate handed him his first start in the famous white shirt of England.
Rice, who at 20 years old became the Hammers’ youngest England starter in more than two decades, shone at the base of the Three Lions’ midfield as they secured a second five-goal victory of the week.
Following Friday’s 5-0 demolition of Czech Republic, in which Rice made his debut from the bench, the West Ham man played the 90 minutes as they put in another five-star performance in defeating Montenegro in Podgorica.
It capped a stellar week for the youngster, who could hardly contain his delight when interviewed at the final whistle.
He said: “To get the win, 5-1; to get the start - I’ve loved every minute of it. I have been training well and obviously with Eric Dier’s injury as well that gave me that chance.
“I loved every minute of it. From the start, singing the national anthem. You just can’t describe it.
“I knew on Sunday [that I was going to start]. The game face was on and I knew I had to be focused on what lie ahead.
“I played the same role as I do at West Ham. I am not one of those who goes running around everywhere. I sit in front of the back four, make my tackles, make my interceptions and keep it easy and pop the ball off. It is simple but effective.
“At times, they were hard to break down and it was frustrating. We had to just keep moving it side to side and we managed to break them down in the end.”
Next up for England is the UEFA Nations League finals in June and Rice would love to be involved as the Three Lions go hunting a trophy – but knows he needs to keep on performing with the Hammers to make that a reality.
He added: “It’s been an unbelievable experience. Ten goals scored, one goal conceded. To be playing with the players I played with, it is a dream come true.
“Now we are part of a really good group. It is really exciting with Gareth, Steve Holland, the backroom staff – everyone is so professional, so well-drilled, you see that on the pitch. We have got a way we want to play and we are going to execute it."