Declan Rice reflects on his impressions of life with England and his rise at West Ham

England and West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice is still a relative newcomer to the Three Lions squad. We caught up with him ahead of Tuesday's game with Kosovo in Southampton...

Tuesday 10 Sep 2019
Declan Rice picked up his third cap for England in the win over Bulgaria at Wembley
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Declan, you’ve been with the England squad since March now. It looked like you settled really quickly right from the start, but how’s it felt to you?

Yeah, I settled really quickly. As soon as I came into the squad, all of the lads made me feel really welcome, Gareth especially with his back-room staff, it felt like I’d been here for a very long time even though it was my first call-up. That was special for me. I play against the lads week-in and week-out so to see them up close and become friends with them, it was a great moment for me to join up in March and get that experience.

From not being involved previously, you were thrust straight into the first Euro Qualifiers in March and then the Nations League Finals. It certainly wasn’t a light introduction to life with England for you?

Yeah, I came on against the Czechs and then made my full debut against Montenegro so it was two tough games there and a great experience for me. And to then go to the tournament, it was straight in at the deep end and I loved every minute of that as well.

How is everyone in the camp following the summer? It was a good start in March and a real chance to build on that now…

Yes, that’s what we want to do but we can’t overlook Kosovo and we need to go into these games at 100 miles an hour. We’ve got some top players in the squad but if we want to qualify for the Euros, we’ve got to be top of group and we know we have two games this month we need to win and we’ll give it everything we’ve got.

Rice and his best friend Mason Mount are enjoying being in the same team again

After the Bulgaria game, the squad headed down to Southampton for the Kosovo game at St. Mary’s. You’re new to the squad, but do you see the benefit of getting around the country for England teams?

Of course, there’s England fans all around the country and Wembley’s in the middle of London so it’s hard for everyone to come. I remember when there was a couple of games last year and back in the day they used to do it at Old Trafford so I think it’s really good. It gives a chance to those fans who can’t get to London to come and watch. It’s a great stadium to have it at and we’re really looking forward to going there and playing.

The last 18 months have been impressive for you at West Ham, moving into midfield and becoming one of the top players in the Premier League. Who have been the biggest influences at West Ham?

I’d have to say Mark Noble. We get on really well and ever since I stepped into the first team he’s had his arm around me and guided me ever since. I’ve got thank the manager has well because he’s believed in me and my qualities to keep playing me. And my mum and dad as well, for supporting me and encouraging me to do the right things and pushing me to be better.

You first broke into the team as a central defender. How did the switch come about?

When I was at Chelsea when I was younger, I was a midfielder and it was only when I went to West Ham that I came back to defence just because there was an injury and I had to step back there. I did quite well and for the rest of that season, I enjoyed it. But when Manuel Pellegrini came, he saw me as a defensive midfielder and thought I had the qualities to play there. I love playing there, you get to express yourself a bit more and I’m enjoying it.

Of course, you played with Mason Mount at Chelsea when you were there. Now you’re team-mates with England...

It’s really special. We’ve been best mates since we were eight. My mum and dad and his mum and dad are good friends as well so we’ve always had that special connection and bond off the pitch. When I got released by Chelsea, both his and my family were gutted and we said then that one day we’d play together again and lucky enough now we get the chance to step out on the pitch together for England. That’s really special moment for both of us.

You can read the full interview with Declan in the match programme for Kosovo.

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By Nicholas Veevers