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Declan Rice calls on West Ham hierarchy to back David Moyes: “If the club give him what he wants, the manager can build a team for the future”
Declan Rice spoke with ex-West Ham midfielder Joe Cole ahead of The Hammers' clash with Norwich on Saturday, exclusively live on BT Sport.
It has been another season filled with highs and lows at the London Stadium.
West Ham have done the double over London rivals Chelsea and beaten Manchester United in 2019/20. Yet they’ve also exited the FA Cup to lower-league opposition and made yet another managerial change, swapping Manuel Pellegrini for David Moyes’ second spell in charge.
Moyes’ appointment in late December, less than two years after he was first let go, was greeted with a mixture of indifference and disappointment from the West Ham faithful.
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The Scotsman’s first spell saw him take over from Slaven Bilic midway through the 2017/18 season and steer the club to safety. But West Ham did not renew his deal, seemingly of the belief he’d taken them as far as he could, and he left that summer.
Fast-forward 18 months and when Pellegrini was dismissed following a bad run, the club came calling again. The former Everton boss re-signed on a contract until the end of the 2020/21 season with a performance-related clause that could see it extended.
One of the main beneficiaries of Moyes’ return has been Declan Rice – who has played almost every game and developed into West Ham’s key man under the manager.
Moyes' key man
Rice leads the way in passes, interceptions and tackles for West Ham this season
And Rice spoke with former West Ham midfielder and BT Sport pundit Joe Cole about where the club is going.
“The manager has only been here a few months,” Rice tells Cole. “The first time he only had a little spell, so hopefully the club give him what he wants and he can build a team for the future.
“If you look at the players we’ve brought in; [Jarrod] Bowen – he’s an unbelievable player, [Tomas] Soucek is exactly what we’ve needed, he’s box-to-box.
“With Seb [Haller] in too we’re signing the right type of player… we are building a nice team.”
Rice himself will be key to that future. The academy graduate has progressed into an England international and the most recent step saw him handed the captain’s armband for the first time in the victory over Chelsea.
I've always wanted to be a captain and there's no better person to learn from than Noble
- Declan Rice
Cole, who was also given the armband as a 21-year-old, asks Rice how it came about and what Moyes told him before giving him the responsibility.
“It’s been coming since Moyes came in really,” adds the combative midfielder.
“After one of the first sessions he pulled me and [captain] Mark Noble aside and we had a chat to say now I’ve stepped up as one of the senior players he needs me to be one of the leaders on the pitch.”
Noble’s injury prior to the Chelsea match opened the door for him. “I didn’t think too much about it because if you get caught up in all that you might not have a good game,” Rice continues.
“I knew I had to go and put in a performance and try to lead and drive the team on.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to be - the captain - and there’s no better person to learn from than Noble. To get the advice from him is very special.
“There’s always opportunities to learn and things I need to add to my game when I’ve got the armband on in terms of leading the team, driving the team on, working and getting in and around the referees a little bit more.
“But it’s a learning curve and it’s a proud moment to wear the armband for me and my family - it’s amazing.”
Having joined West Ham’s Victoria Road academy at the age of 14, Rice is a firm favourite among the supporters who love nothing more than seeing one of their own succeed.
It’s a feeling that’s reciprocated and the defender-cum-midfielder says the knowledge that the fans are behind him helps him through some of the tougher times out on the pitch, even if they can’t currently watch him in action in Stratford.
“With the position we’re in and as a young player it’s been tough,” Rice tells Cole.
“The relationship I’ve got with the fans gives me that buzz and excitement though, because they’re excited to watch me every week and I get to play in front of them.
“I really appreciate all the support the fans give me because that’s what eggs me on every week – to go and make a tackle, make an interception, start another attack – so there’s a little bit of pressure but it really excites me and gives me that buzz that I know I’ve got the fans behind me.”
While it’s been a season of great personal development for Rice, the club find themselves still hovering just four points clear of the relegation zone with four games remaining, after a potentially damaging defeat to Burnley in midweek.
“It was disappointing, obviously after the win against Chelsea and the point against Newcastle, we went in knowing we had the chance to move seven points clear [of the drop] so it’s disappointing.
“We knew what Burnley were going to do, we know what they are about. They sit in tight, play up to the strikers and work off second balls. We created our chances but we couldn’t put them away.
“I don’t think we were going to score even if we went until midnight.”
Given the £100million outlay spent over the two transfer windows this season it’s hard to imagine owners David Gold and David Sullivan will be impressed with the club’s current position just above the drop zone.
The 21-year-old agrees the club are underperforming massively and believes there’s been one key factor in why they’ve struggled so badly this campaign – failing to hold on to leads.
“We’ve lost 24 points from winning positions and that’s not good enough,” Rice says matter-of-factly.
“We are taking the lead in games and then mistakes are costing us… If you’d add those points on to the position where we’re at then we’d be up near Sheffield United, where a club like West Ham should be - up near the European places.”
For now, the attention turns to what could be a decisive clash with bottom-placed Norwich at Carrow Road on Saturday - a match broadcast exclusively live on BT Sport.
“It’s a massive game,” Rice says. “They ‘re rock bottom and fighting for their lives but so are we.
“We know we are really close to getting out, we know Norwich play some great football and we know we have to be ready to go down there and put in a performance.
“There’s a lot of positives to take from Wednesday night [against Burnley] in terms of the stuff we created and we defended well apart from the one cross from which [Jay] Rodriguez scores… if we brush up on those errors there’s no reason we can’t go to Norwich and score a couple.”
Watch Norwich v West Ham exclusively live on BT Sport 1HD & Ultimate from midday on Saturday, the first part of a Premier League double header!