West Ham’s Declan Rice has been named in the England senior squad for the first time and ex-Hammer Joe Cole believes the midfielder is equipped to go on and star for his country.
Rice switched his international from Ireland last month and has been called up at the first possible opportunity by England manager Gareth Southgate for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualification matches against the Czech Republic at Wembley and away at Montenegro.
He has enjoyed a breakout season under Manuel Pellegrini, excelling at the base of midfield and establishing himself as one of the Premier League’s prime young players in that position.
Rice was rewarded for his efforts with a long-term contract extension, which he signed at the end of December.
Now that the controversy over his allegiance has passed, West Ham legend Cole is confident that the 20-year-old can now star for the national team.
“Judging on his performances for West Ham he’s been a revelation,” Cole told Goal. “So he’s got every chance of making that position his own.
“He’s made his decision, let’s put it to bed and let the kid develop as a player. That needs to be the message from everyone involved.
“His contract talks went on longer than they should have done. Now it’s settled, let the kid develop and play his football. He’s a lovely lad from a lovely family. Just let him play.”
Rice was back in the headlines this week when it was revealed that he would be the recipient of the Football Association of Ireland’s Young Player of the Year Award, due to be given out on March 17 in Dublin.
The FAI conceded that Rice was not going to be in attendance to pick up the accolade owing to his declaration for England and Cole sees no reason why Rice should doubt his decision.
“It’s a very easy decision when you really sit down and think about it,” he said. “Where is your heart? Where is that passion going to be?
“If that passion is still with England then you can’t knock him for making that decision.
“I’m of the opinion that everyone is allowed to change their mind when it comes to where they see themselves, especially at 18. If we had to live and die by the decisions at the age of 18 we’d all be in a very different place as adults.
“The lad has had a good chance to think of it. His path and his career has changed. And he chose England. We should all respect that.
“Time will tell if it is the right decision. One thing I would say about the lad is he’s an exceptional player. And I’ve been lucky enough to spend time in his company and he’s a great lad as well.
“This decision wouldn’t have been taken lightly. Let’s let the young lad develop into the player that he deserves to be.”
Joe Cole is no stranger to switching clubs. However, he was joined by former England team-mate Michael Owen as the pair announced one final transfer in a tongue-in-cheek film for smartphone brand Huawei. Citing intelligent performance and a fantastic kit as reasons for the move, the Premier League greats state they’ve made the easiest move of their careers...