Former West Ham United hate figure Frank Lampard has spoken out in defence of young star Declan Rice.
Rice opened a can of worms when he chose to represent England instead of the Republic of Ireland last week.
The 20-year-old midfielder had won three senior Ireland caps in friendlies having played for his grandparents’ country since under-16 level.
Rice will make his 60th appearance for West Ham against Fulham on Friday night. He has excelled for Manuel Pellegrini’s side this season and is fast becoming the club’s most indispensable player.
Young Rice subjected to harsh criticism
The decision to switch his international allegiance has courted much controversy, though.
Kevin Kilbane was savaged by West Ham fans for hitting out at their young hero, read full story here.
Then Roy Hodgson suggested it should be a watershed moment for international football by telling Ireland to lobby FIFA over having the rules changed (Sky Sports).
He may not be the most popular person with some West Ham fans.
But they have found an unlikely ally in the form of ex-Hammer Frank Lampard.
Lampard the voice of reason
The Derby County boss, who made nearly 200 appearances for boyhood club West Ham, has defended Rice’s integrity while waxing lyrical about his talents (DerbyshireLive).
“It is a boost (for England), because I think he is a fantastic young player, there’s no doubt about that,” Lampard told DerbyshireLive.
“He has matured this season, game by game, I think, when I’ve seen him – and I’ve seen him a fair bit.
“I like his personality. He’s a driven boy, he’s a strong boy, and knows how to play the game – he can play different roles.
‘I think it made sense’
“As for the choice he has made, you have to put it down to the individual. I think he was very articulate in how he explained his decision, and I think it made sense.
“So it’s obviously good for England to have a player of his quality make that decision.”
Well said Frank junior. Perhaps bridges can be built after all.