Former West Ham and England player Matthew Upson has been singing Ireland under-21 international Declan Rice’s praises.
Having made a name for himself this term with three full games in the EFL Cup under his belt, it appears as though Rice is on the cusp of becoming a regular at the London Stadium, and the way he acquitted himself against Manchester City on Sunday in his first Premier League start could go some way to speeding up that process.
With a new manager in David Moyes now in the hot seat the centre-back has the opportunity to start afresh and stake a claim for a place in the side with some major clashes coming later this month, including top flight matches against Chelsea and Arsenal – who the Hammers will also face in the EFL Cup quarter-final later this month.
While Moyes still needs to find his preferred starting XI, Upson’s comments suggest it should be an easy decision for the former United boss to put him in the team.
“For his first Premier League start at centre-back, he handles himself brilliantly,” Upson said on BBC’s Match of the Day 2.
“He was in a back three. I thought his decision making, when to come out and when to hold his position, he identifies it, releases himself and just tidies up nicely. He did that all afternoon.
“It’s a natural feel for the game but I think he’s also been working on it. It’s something he’s been doing in training, very aware of tactically improving at such a young age, and just by identifying these positions.”
At just 18, the London-born defender, who qualifies for Ireland through his Corkonian grandparents, still has many more years ahead to learn his craft but given his ascent of late it looks like he could be a more regular figure in the Hammers’ defence before long.
Hat tip: RTÉ Sport