If new Manchester City star Rodri had taken the place of West Ham United hero Declan Rice in England’s last two games we would never hear the end of it.
Despite playing a major role in two Euro 2020 qualifying victories Rice has been criticised.
Pundits and fans have singled the West Ham star out, the latest being Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas calling him ‘clumsy and overrated’.
Playing for England, as Rice is quickly discovering, can be a no-win situation for a player like him.
The vilification of Declan Rice
Some media outlets will not rest until he moves to a so-called big club as if the fact he plays for West Ham undermines his ability when he pulls on an England shirt.
It didn’t do Bobby Moore any harm did it. Or the host of other England stars West Ham have produced since.
Rice has been subjected to abuse and harsh criticism from fans and pundits.
The 20-year-old Hammer – yes TWENTY YEARS OLD – will have seen that even if he does the job he is in the team to do – namely sit in midfield breaking up the play and keeping it simple – and does it well, like having a 98% pass completion rate over two competitive international matches, it cuts no ice with a large section of England supporters and media.
Mentality towards young English players must change
Had it been Rodri – Rice’s equivalent for Manchester City and Spain – the perception would be completely different.
From Claude Makelele to N’Golo Kante and Fernandinho there is an obsession in England with foreign imports being the best in class in the defensive midfield position.
Rodri for example, is three years Rice’s senior, and undoubtedly a superb player.
But his performances stand out no more than Rice’s in terms of statistics. And the pair have a very similar style.
While Rice is labelled ‘clumsy’, Rodri is refereed to as ‘classy’. The truth is anyone who watches Rice regularly knows he absolutely oozes class. West Ham fans know their stuff. They know a player when they see one, and they have seen plenty of top class operators over the years.
There seems to be a mentality of doing down our bright young talents in this country if they don’t play for your team – or play for a rival club to yours. Much of it, particularly on social media, borders on hateful and spiteful. It is certainly not rational, considered, helpful or even accurate most of the time.
Home is where the heart is
Until that stops Rice should not expect any slack anytime soon. Nor would he want or expect it. He is a driven, ambitious young man with the world at his feet.
Anyone who doesn’t think Rice has been unfairly singled out only needs listen to, read or watch some of the comments from a host of pundits, so-called “experts” and supporters on social media, phone-ins and forums.
Then take that reaction and put it up against the West Ham midfielder’s figures from the last match against Kosovo.
Pass accuracy 91%, five of six long balls completed, four clearances, one shot blocked, three crucial interceptions, two from three ground duels won, two from two tackles won, one counter goal assist.
If that was Rodri, they’d be raving not ranting.
Declan returns home to West Ham this weekend and one thing is for certain, he will always be appreciated here.