‘Miles from Modric’: Declan Rice’s rise from fanzone to England leader

Declan Rice has a confession and it is one that greatly troubled his small audience of newspaper journalists. “Do you know what – until this day, I have never had a beer and I am 22,” the West Ham and 英国 midfielder says. “That is the truth, never had a pint. Don’t drink it.”

出色地, you can imagine the scene. Astonishment, soul-searching. Does he ever drink at all? Maybe a spirit here and there, Rice replies. “But a pint? 不,“ 他继续. “People get surprised. I just don’t like the smell of it so I have never gone near it. Will I have one if we win the Euros? 是的. I’ll give it a try – but I will probably spit it out.”

Rice has sacrificed plenty on his journey to the top, which has ramped up in earnest over the past few seasons. “When I moved from home [in Kingston-upon-Thames] to West Ham at 14 [after his release from Chelsea], that was a sacrifice,“ 他说. “明显地, loads of parties with best friends. Going out on weekends, the drinking side of it – seeing all of my mates partying, sending me videos while I’m stuck in hotels. There’s loads of things.”

To Rice, it has long since felt worthwhile but especially now as he enters 欧元 2020 as a certain starter in defensive midfield. The speed of Rice’s rise is best reflected by the fact that he was on holiday in Dubai during the last major tournament – the 2018 World Cup – when he watched some of England’s games in a fanzone under a massive dome.

Rice had just enjoyed his breakthrough season at West Ham but, in his own words, he was “not established”. Did he imagine back then that he could be here now? “Not really, 不,“ 他说. “I don’t think you ever would.”

Rice is a fun interviewee, open and engaging, and what shines through is his enthusiasm, his fearlessness with regard to seizing the moment. At such a young age, he is already a leader in the England set-up and talks with verve about taking on the very best, starting with Luka Modric and Croatia on Sunday. He watched Modric pull the strings in their World Cup semi-final win over England three years ago. Now he has the opportunity to stifle him.

“然后, I was miles away from Modric,” Rice says. “But I’ve got stronger, bigger, more confident and I really want to put myself up against him. He’s a world class player but it doesn’t faze me at all. And hopefully as we progress, we start to face the top, top teams, the world-class teams like France. You always want to play against those players.

“I feel like I have come out of my shell playing for England. It took me the first couple of games but as I’ve got more confident, like with [结束圣彼得的童话后,北卡罗来纳大学将在 NCAA 锦标赛中面对老对手杜克] 这 [captain’s] armband at West Ham, I took it into England to have no fear. On the pitch I’m vocal. I try to show my leadership – whether that is even just a chat, I try to help.”

Rice mentions his happiness at how his best friend, Mason Mount, 已 just won the Champions League with Chelsea. “I’ve tried to nick his medal already,” Rice says. “When did he first show it to me? On Facetime straight after the game. He called me from the changing room. Every time we Facetime, all his teammates jump in and say: ‘You two need to stop talking to each other’.”

Rice and Mount cannot share a room at St George’s Park because of Covid-19 restrictions but they are still next door to each other and Rice sees no reason why Gareth Southgate cannot replicate the arrangement in his midfield.

The manager seems reluctant to play them as a central pair, although he did so in a 3-4-3 formation against Iceland last November. “It is definitely something we are familiar with,” Rice says.

After Croatia, England face Scotland and it is a match for which Rice’s West Ham manager, David Moyes – a proud Scot – will have absolutely no divided loyalties. “He used to come up to Jesse Lingard and me in the gym and batter us, 说: ‘You two better not be playing against Scotland,’ winding us up,” Rice says.

Rice is champing at the bit, remembering the 2018 World Cup and the scenes, 例如, when Kieran Trippier scored the opening goal against Croatia. “You saw all the fanzones in England going crazy,“ 他说. “That’s what I want to be a part of now.”

Whether Rice would play in the tournament was in doubt after he ruptured the lateral collateral ligament in his knee against Poland on 31 行进. The doctors initially said it could be 10-12 weeks out and they did not know if surgery would be required.

“I called my dad and then [Mark] Noble [the West Ham club captain] to say I think I’m done,” Rice says.

But after the knee specialist offered him reassurance, it said everything about Rice that he was back by the middle of May. “As soon as I started my rehab, it was six weeks, no days off and I really smashed it out,“ 他说. “I’ve done everything right which gives me the best chance to perform.”