Declan Rice hails the influence of Mark Noble and Harry Kane
Nobody associated with West Ham United would be surprised if Declan Rice was one day named England captain.
The 21-year-old has led the Hammers at every level since he joined the Club as a schoolboy, wore the first-team armband for the first time against Leicester City in December 2019 and has skippered David Moyes’ side in each of its last seven Premier League matches.
Both Moyes and his England manager Gareth Southgate have hailed Rice’s maturity, leadership qualities and professionalism and, speaking ahead of the Three Lions’ UEFA Nations League A2 tie with Belgium in Leuven on Sunday, the player himself revealed he would love to captain his country in the future.
“I’ve been privileged enough, if I look back at my time at West Ham in the Academy, in the Under-16s, the 18s, the 21s, I was the captain in them age groups,” said the deep-lying midfielder. “It’s just something that, as a kid, has always been one of my dreams, to captain a side.
“Coming up with Nobes (Mark Noble) as the captain and me kind of being the rising player in the team, the manager, David Moyes, has given me the armband this season when Nobes isn’t playing, and I’m taking it in my stride.
“I’m really lucky that I’ve got someone like Nobes there to help me along the way. I’m obviously only 21 and I’m captaining the big games like Liverpool and Manchester City, so long may that continue.”
Rice has so many leaders to learn from with both West Ham and England. At Rush Green, he works with Noble, predecessor Kevin Nolan and former England captain Stuart Pearce, while at St George’s Park he works with manager Southgate, captain Harry Kane and fellow Premier League skippers Jordan Henderson, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling, Harry Maguire and Conor Coady.
The young Hammer is grateful for the opportunity to spend time with coaches and players from whom he can glean experience and knowledge, with Kane, in particular, setting an example he is only too eager to follow.
“You feel his presence all the time,” said Rice. “The other night, he wasn’t involved against Ireland but he’s in the changing room before, he’s getting everyone ready for the game, talking to the lads – going around individually.
“For a youngster like me who is aspiring to be hopefully a future captain, to look at him and what he does, the way he goes round and speaks to the players, and the way he is on the pitch he might not be the loudest – but the way he takes the ball under pressure and the way he gets defences scared, to me he is a real leader.”
Rice, Kane and England will hope to reach the Nations League finals again with League A2 wins over Belgium on Sunday at 7.45pm and Iceland at Wembley on Wednesday 18 November, also at 7.45pm. Both matches will be broadcast live by Sky Sports Main Event.