The criticism of West Ham United star Declan Rice in the wake of England’s 4-0 win over Bulgaria has been a real eye-opener.
West Ham fans are fiercely proud of Rice, especially since he broke into the England team under Gareth Southgate.
It came after his now infamous switch of allegiance from Republic of Ireland – the country of his family – to the Three Lions – the country of his birth and footballing education.
West Ham fans backed their young hero as he the world and its wife seemed to criticise the central midfield enforcer.
His performances for the Hammers remained unaffected.
Rice switch, death threats and the Gary Neville effect
Gary Neville did not help matters when he dragged the issue up from the bottom of the slow news day barrel last week (The Independent).
But it was the bizarre and harsh reaction of England fans and pundits like Ian Wright which prove Rice made the wrong decision switching to ungrateful England.
With Ireland Rice would have been heralded and respected for his talent.
Hammer should have stuck with grateful Irish
His performances for Ireland before crossing over resulted in a couple of man of the match awards and columns upon columns of praise for the West Ham man.
Had he stuck with the grateful Irish, Rice would have been hero-worshipped and probably groomed for the captaincy.
With England, Rice is quickly discovering it is a different story altogether.
Rice is seeing 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 completing 95 of 97 passes in a competitive 4-0 win no less, it cuts no ice with a large section of England supporters and media.
You would like to think consistently quality performances will change all that.
Rice the new scapegoat for bored trolls in the stands and the press box
But having witnessed England fans and the media devour many a player over the years, it is just as likely he will be the new go-to scapegoat.
It says a lot that the most complimentary assessment of Rice’s performance against Bulgaria came from a man with perhaps the biggest axe to grind, Roy Keane.
The Manchester United legend provided a considered and rational assessment of Rice’s display (ITV as reported by Forever West Ham) despite being the Ireland assistant boss when Rice decided to pursue a career with England instead.
For West Ham there is a great history and tradition in providing players for the England team.
Indeed for Hammers fans there is a great pride in doing so.
But watching their 20-year-old star being harshly rounded on after every England performance makes one wonder whether the player himself may even secretly harbour some regrets regardless of what he says publicly.