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?
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.
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
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
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
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.