West Ham are “potty” not to have tied Declan Rice to a new contract, says Tony Gale, with the youngster considered to be “a future captain”.
The Hammers remain in discussions with the 19-year-old academy graduate, but have yet to reach an agreement.
Rice is still tied to a deal through to 2020, but those at the London Stadium are eager to reward his development and secure his long-term future.
Initial offers have been knocked back, with a versatile performer looking for his standing as an established member of the senior squad to be recognised, and West Ham’s reluctance to bow to those demands has left a club legend baffled.
Gale told Love Sport Radio: “I spoke to Dec on the phone [after the Chelsea game] and said to him how well he played and that I thought he could take a few more risks with his passing because he’s even better than what we’ve seen at the moment.
“He’s been playing in that role - he’s not actually a midfield player which must be a bit frustrating for him.
“I was pointing out that at a similar age when I was in the first team, I was actually put into a midfield position and it actually helped me advance my play because you move your feet quicker and then when you go back into the back four, it seems a little bit of a doddle where you’ve got a little bit more time on the ball and you’re seeing the play in front of you.
“I’ve been really impressed with him and if you met him, you wouldn’t fail to be impressed. He’s just a kid who hangs on every word and he wants to learn.
“He’s an impressive young man and he hasn’t signed a new contract. I think West Ham are potty not to have given him that new contract and risk losing him because he is the future for West Ham. He’s a future captain, without a doubt."
Gale added: “I know the kid so I wouldn’t like to go overboard on Dec. I think he’s a good young player in the making. He does everything right about his game.
“I saw him in the summer and in the summer months he trains, he does one-on-ones and everything. He keeps himself nice and fit. He comes from a really good family, his dad’s a smashing fellow who played a little bit of non-league football himself. So he’s got a good upbringing and that’s so important for kids that the parents behind them are so level-headed and they don’t want the riches too quickly.
“He’s a kid who is prepared to wait his time. But I think his time is now as far as his contract is concerned, if West Ham are not careful, they could risk losing this kid.
“There’s a lot of players in that team who are far less talented than him and who are on probably, and this is no exaggeration, 10 times as much money. That sometimes is a little bit hard to bear.
“They’ve got to look after these kids. We’ve lost one and I saw another one at the weekend: he’s Crystal Palace’s star defender at the moment, James Tomkins.
“I just think if James were playing with Declan and we had Mark in midfield, then all of a sudden we’ve got a little bit of a core to our team and a little bit of a backbone which people and fans can associate with.”
Rice, who has made headlines this season after considering switching international allegiance from the Republic of Ireland to England, has made five appearances for West Ham in the 2018-19 campaign and was once again included in their starting XI for the Premier League clash with Manchester United on Saturday.