West Ham United star Declan Rice opened a can of worms when he chose England on Wednesday.
The 20-year-old midfielder had won three senior Republic of Ireland caps in friendlies having played for his grandparents’ country since under-16 level.
Rice has already made 59 appearances for West Ham and has excelled for Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
Indeed he is fast becoming the club’s most indispensable player.
In August the Londoner said he needed time to decide his future, as winning a competitive cap for the Republic would have tied him to the country.
‘An extremely difficult decision’
Since then Rice has settled his club future, signing a new six-year deal with West Ham on Christmas Day.
On Wednesday Rice released a lengthy statement on Twitter explaining his thinking.
“This has been an extremely difficult decision,” he said.
“I consider myself to be of mixed nationality. I have equal respect for both England and Ireland and therefore the national team I choose to represent is not a clear-cut, simple selection.
“Ultimately, it is a personal decision I have made with my heart and my head, based on what I believe is best for my future.”
— Declan Rice (@_DeclanRice) February 13, 2019
Critical Kilbane mocks Rice
One of the youngster’s biggest critics during the difficult process has been footballer turned pundit Kevin Kilbane.
Kilbane, who played for nine different clubs, was born in Preston but opted to play for Ireland, the country of his parents.
The former Everton man has been vocal in his criticism of Rice’s hesitancy to commit.
And he was one of the first to react to Rice’s statement saying: “If you’re a “proud Englishman” then why play for us in the first place?”
If you’re a “proud Englishman” then why play for us in the first place?
— Kevin Kilbane (@kdkilbane77) February 13, 2019
West Ham fans savage pundit
That prompted an angry reaction from Hammers fans defending their young hero.
Many pointing out Kilbane wouldn’t understand Rice’s thinking because he ‘never had the choice’.
In actual fact Kilbane rejected the chance to play for England at Under 18 level.
But the West Ham faithful were not best pleased with Kilbane’s criticism.
Here are a selection of responses to Kilbane’s tweet.
‘Oh the irony’
But it’s ironic, you love a Englishman for playing for Ireland, but hate an Englishman for playing for England? only difference is Kev was never good enough for England so didn’t get the chance to swap
— TotalWHU (@TotalWestHam) February 13, 2019
But his not Irish, played for Ireland because he wasn’t wanted by England
— Bradders (@bradleyjames22) February 13, 2019
You’re from Preston Kev
— Jonny (@JonnyTeeee) February 13, 2019
‘Us’ said with a strong Lancashire/ prestonian accent.
C’mon Kev give the lad a break, it must have been a tough decision 👀👀
— EFC (@Blueblood_1984) February 13, 2019
He was a child when he made the choice. Grow up Kevin.
— Steve ⚒🥊 (@SrHack123) February 13, 2019
‘Love a bitter old pro’
Ooh look at the old pro digging into a 20 year old. Maybe he was proud to play for Ireland to honour his Grandparents, who were actually Irish.
Now the country of his birth comes knocking and he’s going to grab that chance with both hands.
— Darren 父 Cox (@hammersmad) February 13, 2019
Did you even read his full statement. People can have dual nationality. I’m both proud to be English and equally proud of my Nigerian heritage.
— R I C H A R D (@richard_offiong) February 13, 2019
Poor from you. Declan Rice has obviously agonised over the decision. He’s an English lad and didn’t realise he would get this chance. Ireland need to look at their own set up and stop poaching players on the grandparent rule.
— Robert Runciman (@munrofootball) February 13, 2019
Let’s be honest Kev, you played for Ireland, because you weren’t good enough to play for England. Rice is. You were hardly brought up in Dublin and have a thick brogue. Oh! And Rice didn’t deprive anybody of 3 caps, they were friendlies.
— Iain Tait (@RitaitIain) February 13, 2019
You really don’t like West Ham do you 😂Half of the Irish team are there by default wind your neck in
— Ben Willoughby (@_BenWilloughby) February 13, 2019
‘If you were half decent you would have too’
Comments like this are probably a reason for players turning their back, unnecessary pressure and stick for a young lad. Forcing people to stand by decisions they’ve made at 18/19 isn’t fair. Just because you felt fully Irish doesn’t mean everyone else does.
— Peter Fitzpatrick (@P_Fitzpatrick_) February 13, 2019
Come on Kev. If you were half decent you would have turned your back on the Irish
— Mike Glover (@MikeGlover87) February 13, 2019
Love a bitter ex pro 🤣🤣🤣🤣
— Bite Yer Legs 💙💛 (@biteyourlegs) February 13, 2019
I find it very distressing that the vast majority of Irish supporters feel this way and some of the comments being made are disgraceful. As a #WHU fan, we would wish Declan the best whoever he chose. Leave the lad alone, it was hard for him having Irish grandparents. Respect him
— Kevin (@kevin_lock1) February 13, 2019
— ⚒ james mugford ⚒ (@mugford_09) February 13, 2019
Tag him in it if you’re so big and brave..
— Matt Scally (@mscally10) February 13, 2019
Di Stefano played for 3 countries….. He’s one of the all time greats.
Give the lad a break ffs
Or take Henderson or Dier 🤣
— Bill 父 (@Thewelshhammer) February 13, 2019