Legendary West Ham United academy director Tony Carr has been discussing the meteoric rise of Declan Rice.
After being picked up by West Ham when he was released by Chelsea as a 13-year-old, Rice has blossomed into one of the finest young defensive midfielders in Europe.
He has become the West Ham vice-captain and is also a regular for England.
And all with the added bonus that he can play at centre-back too.
Hammers hero Rice keeps proving doubters wrong
Rice has faced a lot of doubters from his time at Chelsea and now every time he plays for England on the international stage.
But speaking on the latest West Ham Way Extra Time podcast, Hammers legend Carr – who oversaw a golden generation of talent along the famous academy production line, revealed Rice has always believed in himself.
“Straightaway I saw… technically he was very good,” Carr said on The West Ham Way Extra Time podcast when talking about Rice’s first training session with the Hammers academy after his release from Chelsea.
Legend Carr tells the story behind Rice’s rise
“He was only just 13/14 but I thought ‘yea he’s good this player’… He’d only been with us about a year, or part of a year, and he came back pre-season and he’d grown it seemed about four inches, all of a sudden he was tall and slim and had a great shape about him.
“So we played him at centre-back for a few games. And when he played at centre-back you really saw what he had as a young player. At centre-back you probably get a little bit more time on the ball, little bit more space and with that time and space he was making terrific things happen…
“I thought ‘this kid is really developing’. He was then alternating between midfield and centre-back.
Rice sent Carr confident three-word text response before debut
“I’d left the club just before he made his debut…
“So I sent him a text just saying ‘All the best, well done, just play your own natural game, don’t get fazed by it’.
“And he text back ‘I will. Thanks’. He wasn’t ‘Oh I hope so, hope it goes well’. He wasn’t nervous – well he didn’t appear to be – and obviously he’s gone on from strength to strength…
“His development has been nothing short of outstanding and I think he’s still developing, he’s getting better.
“If he can score a few more goals you start to think he has it all as a midfield player. Great team player. And if he can add a few goals to his CV I think he’ll be well on his way to being a regular in the England team for a long, long time. Well I hope so anyway.
“And he’s a good lad, there’s no flashness about him.”