West Ham claimed their first win of the season against Everton yesterday and youngster Declan Rice was a standout performer.

Rice was arguably man of the match as West Ham beat Everton 3-1 at Goodison Park.

That victory lifted West Ham out of the relegation zone and earned them their first three points under Manuel Pellegrini.

While it was a great team effort, West Ham fans would have been particularly proud of academy product Rice.

Could the 19-year-old be ready for a starring role in Pellegrini’s team this season?

Pre-match controversy

Prior to the game, there was a major media storm surrounding Rice.

The youngster had not yet decided whether he wanted to represent England (the country where he has grown up) or the Republic of Ireland.

Rice’s grandparents come from Cork and he has three senior caps for the boys in green – all of which were friendly games.

Dublin , Ireland – 2 June 2018; Declan Rice of Republic of Ireland during the International Friendly match between Republic of Ireland and the United States at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

While making his mind up, he turned down the chance to play in the UEFA Nations League for Ireland. That would have counted as a competitive game and made him ineligible for England.

With so much discussion about his predicament in the media, it must have been tough for a teenager to cope with.

But he brushed all this aside and showed his maturity with a stunning performance against the Toffees.

Rice vs. Everton

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 16: Declan Rice of West Ham United and Cenk Tosun of Everton in action during the Premier League match between Everton FC and West Ham United at Goodison Park on September 16, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images)

Rice provided West Ham with a well-rounded central midfield performance. This has been lacking all season.

The talented teenager has transitioned from a centre-half into a defensive midfielder in the last year or so and played the perfect role yesterday.

 

Sitting just in front of the back four and behind Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang in a central midfield trio, Rice coped with everything that came his way.

He was dominant in the air, strong in the tackle and composed on the ball. Moreover, his reading of the game was impeccable, often cutting out passes before the move got too dangerous.

Ready for major role

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 16: Pablo Zabaleta and Declan Rice of West Ham United in action during the Premier League match between Everton FC and West Ham United at Goodison Park on September 16, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images)

Rice bounced back from being benched for three Premier League matches with a point to prove.

His message was clear: despite all the media attention off the field, he will let his football do the talking.

For such a junior player, Rice plays the game like he has been around for ages at this level.

It always seems like Rice has more time on the ball than anyone else. He is relaxed, confident and able to hit a range of passes.

The Londoner provides perfect protection for the back four and his commitment and passion should be an example to some of the more senior players.

There is no doubt that Rice should be one of the first names on the team sheet for the rest of the season.

Future West Ham captain

ROMFORD, ENGLAND – AUGUST 30: Mark Noble and Declan Rice of West Ham United during Training at Rush Green on August 30, 2018 in Romford, England. (Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images)

Rice is grounded, sensible and mature for his age. He is vocal on the pitch, he understands the game and he always puts in 100% effort.

These are all the characteristics that a future captain needs and who better than to have an academy product take the armband once Mark Noble passes it on.

This boy is a special talent and should be the future West Ham skipper. It is time that West Ham recognised that and rewarded him with the new contract he deserves.

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