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West Ham youngster shows how much he has improved since last Newcastle visit

PUBLISHED: 16:30 03 December 2018

West Ham United's Declan Rice (left) and Pablo Zabaleta celebrate after the final whistle during the Premier League match at St James' Park, Newcastle.

West Ham United's Declan Rice (left) and Pablo Zabaleta celebrate after the final whistle during the Premier League match at St James' Park, Newcastle.

PA Wire/PA Images

What a difference a season makes for superb Declan Rice

West Ham United's Fabian Balbuena (left) and Newcastle United's Fabian Schar battle for the ball during the Premier League match at St James' Park, Newcastle.West Ham United's Fabian Balbuena (left) and Newcastle United's Fabian Schar battle for the ball during the Premier League match at St James' Park, Newcastle.

Last season’s game at St James’ Park also finished 3-0, but it proved an absolute nightmare for the Hammers.

Slaven Bilic offered to resign after the defeat and a certain Declan Rice was hauled off at the break on what was a personal disaster for the youngster.

On Saturday he returned wiser, more confident and even taller and he was triumphant with yet another imperious performance in the middle of the park.

He remembers that day last season well: “Last time I was here, I was subbed at half time, but I have come on so much since then and grown so much.

West Ham United's Declan Rice (left) tackles Manchester City's Leroy Sane during the Premier League match at The London Stadium, London.West Ham United's Declan Rice (left) tackles Manchester City's Leroy Sane during the Premier League match at The London Stadium, London.

“I was like a different player in this game to be honest.

“That day helped to make me into the player I am today,” he admitted. “You need one of those rickets.

“It was the third game into the season and it kicked me on for the rest of the season and I have learned so much since then.”

He was right. A new position from last season and nowadays he hardly puts a foot wrong with neat passing and expert tackling.

He helped control the middle of the park against some talented players and he confessed that he is never overawed by who he faces on the field.

“I have come up against world class players all season and at the end of the day it is only a game of football,” said the 19-year-old.

“You just have to get on with it and play the opponent not the name, you just have to worry about yourself.”

Rice’s maturity as a player is simply astonishing. He has grown as a player from last season and quite literally too.

“I have shot up in height, my mum and dad keep telling me that,” he laughed. “I am six feet three now and for someone playing in midfield or at centre back you need to have height.”

As well as the pressure for Rice on the field, there are also pressures off the field for one so young.

He admitted that he has agreed to speak to new Ireland boss Mick McCarthy about his international future, but he has still not made a final decision.

There is also the matter of his contract at West Ham which continues to stall.

“At the moment I am just concentrating on playing for West Ham,” he said.

And it is certainly working.

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