West Ham man Angelo Ogbonna sat down for an exclusive interview with the Mirror, and offered his backing to Declan Rice after the youngster switched international allegiances from the Republic of Ireland to England six months ago.

The 20-year-old burst onto the scene with the Hammers last season. And his form over the past 12 months has been impeccable.

Rice has received criticism from some sections of the media, however.

Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United - Carabao Cup Fourth Round

Declan Rice and Angelo Ogbonna (Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United FC via Getty Images)

His decision to swap Ireland for England was widely panned at the time. And he has also received harsh judgement for his recent displays for the Three Lions.

West Ham defender Ogbonna drew parallels with his own international career, however, when speaking exclusively to the Mirror:

 

“Declan grew up here. For me you could say ‘Angelo, your parents are Nigerian but I grew up in Italy. I grew up with the Italian culture so it was much easier to choose Italy.”

Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United - Carabao Cup Fourth Round

Angelo Ogbonna with Declan Rice(Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United FC via Getty Images)

Rice is undoubtedly a truly top class player. And he will surely go on to become an elite performer.

He needs to block out the criticism that he will undoubtedly receive over the next few years.

The 20-year-old will always have the full support of the West Ham fans, however.

And if he continues to improve, he will certainly be a vital player for both England and the Hammers over the next decade.

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