Declan Rice: As a team we know the direction we’re heading in
Declan Rice was full of pride after captaining West Ham United to their first-ever Premier League win at Sheffield United.
The Hammers withstood a determined, physical and aerial threat from the Blades to secure a hard-fought 1-0 win at Bramall Lane on Sunday – the Irons’ first top-flight victory there since April 1968 – through Sebastien Haller’s rasping second-half winner.
Speaking to WHTV, the skipper was delighted with the way the team stood up to the unique threat posed by Chris Wilder’s side to collect three more points, make it back-to-back 1-0 Premier League wins and climb to eighth in the table.
As a team we know the direction we’re heading in and we just need to stay focused, keep giving the manager what he wants and keep exciting the fans and giving them what they want
“I said to one of the lads in the dressing room after the game that if you think about a special away win, 1-0 away at Sheffield United with a great performance, you can’t get much more than that,” he beamed.
“Obviously after what happened here last year happened [when I was penalised for handball by VAR and Robert Snodgrass’s last-minute equaliser was disallowed], but we came into this game with a lot of confidence and I think you could see that, so to get the win was really good.
“It’s such a shame the fans weren’t here because the stand they’re in here is a great stand for the away fans. It’s one of those where you want to score and jump in with them! We’ve missed the fans massively, as they’d have been here singing like they always so, but hopefully they enjoyed that watching from home.”
With one point from their opening eight games, Sheffield United came into the game determined to register their first win in 12 Premier League matches dating back to July, but after Lukasz Fabianski had made four first-half saves, the Irons gradually took control and were on top when Haller belted them in front on 56 minutes.
West Ham’s strong performance was all the more impressive when you consider Haller, Fabianski, Fabian Balbuena, Vladimir Coufal, Tomas Soucek and Rice himself had all returned from international duty in the days leading up to Sunday’s fixture. And the captain said Haller’s goal was the result of the confidence drawn from scoring on his debut for Ivory Coast earlier this month.
“We said before the game that we knew what they were going to do,” the 21-year-old said, referring to Sheffield United’s approach. “Obviously, they’ve not won a game yet and teams like that come out fighting. We obviously had a lot of confidence coming into the game, as I’ve said, and we just needed it to settle down and once it settled we got a foothold, started passing it really well and had some great chances in the first and second half.
“Seb scored a fantastic goal, which is what he’s been doing in training since he’s been back, so I’ve got to say everyone was excellent. To a man, they were outstanding. Seb has been unbelievable since he’s come back from Ivory Coast. It seems like his confidence is back and that’s what we need from Seb. We know his qualities and that’s what we saw at Frankfurt and when he plays, he pretty much scores every time, so we need to keep giving him the ball in areas where he wants it and he will continue to be a threat.
“I thought Fabian, as well, he’s been all the way to Paraguay and had a 15-hour flight to come back and play today, was outstanding. It’s been a great effort from everyone.”
West Ham’s fourth win and fourth clean sheet in nine games took them up to eighth, two points outside the top six with home games with Aston Villa and Manchester United up next.
But while positivity is flowing through the Claret and Blue veins at present, Rice said manager David Moyes will not let anyone get carried away.
“We’re not going get too ahead of ourselves and I think it’s good that we’re the team going under the radar and just going about our business quietly,” he confirmed.
“If you look, Southampton were top of the table before the international break and we’re only two points off them now and four points off Chelsea and we’ve got Aston Villa next.
“As a team we know the direction we’re heading in and we just need to stay focused, keep giving the manager what he wants and keep exciting the fans and giving them what they want.”