West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice is keen to avoid a Round Two Carabao Cup upset this evening when Manuel Pellegrini’s men travel to Kingsmeadow to face League One AFC Wimbledon.
The Hammers are aiming to make it through to Round Three of the League Cup for the sixth successive year and can do so with a victory in Rice’s hometown of Kingston-on-Thames, ahead of the Tuesday night match, he spoke to West Ham’s official website, WHUFC.com.
“Last year, we were unlucky in this competition, we beat Cheltenham and Bolton and then Spurs before we lost at Arsenal in quarters, which was gutting,” proclaimed the full Republic of Irelands International.
“We know we can go far as we’ve got a good side and obviously, we want to go to Wimbledon and win. We don’t want to be knocked out early. We want to go there and make a statement and go through to the next round.
“We want to avoid the upset, otherwise we won’t hear the end of it, so we need to go out there and perform, start quick and not be surprised by Wimbledon, who have had a decent start to the season.”
The 19-year-old, who made over 30 first-team appearances last season under Slaven Bilic and David Moyes, grew up watching Wimbledon play at the Cherry Records stadium and still lives just a few miles from the stadium, spoke of his association with the famed club, later in the same Interview.
“It’s crazy what has happened to Wimbledon. Obviously, they were a successful club back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, then the new club was formed and now seeing them moving forward and going back to Plough Lane next year is great for them.
“It’s only a small stadium but they’ve got a great fan base and you can hear them from my house whenever they’re playing! It will be good to go there and play, having been somewhere I went to watch play with my mates.
“It’s a five-minute walk from my house and I’ve been there to a few games down the years, with probably the most memorable being when they faced Liverpool in the FA Cup in January 2015. Liverpool won 2-1 and it was a good game.
“I also went to a game when they beat Fleetwood to stay in League Two back in 2014 and we all ran on the pitch and all sorts!
“I know some of their lads too, so I obviously wish them well after Tuesday night, because it’s a good club.”
The Dons were formed in 2002 after the financial collapse of the original Wimbledon FC, which saw them move to Milton Keynes in the Midlands, and later be renamed Milton Keynes Dons FC.
Nowadays, AFC are above MK Dons in the English Football League pyramid for the first time and looking to cause their Premier League opponents a shock in the first-ever meeting of the two sides.
As for Rice, tonight should provide him with the opportunity to gain some valuable playing time, something that has been at a premium for him since the arrival of Pellegrini in East London.
The Academy of Football product started the Irons’ PL opener, but was hauled off at half-time in the 4-0 thrashing by Liverpool at Anfield, not seeing a minute of action since.
The starlet, dubbed “future West Ham captain” was dropped the following weekend for the shock home defeat to AFC Bournemouth and sat and watched from the substitutes’ bench as his team were bested 3-1 by Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium last Saturday afternoon.
“Whoever is selected for the game is obviously going to want to take their chance and hopefully play well and get picked in the Premier League, which is where we all want to be playing.” Said Rice when discussing his current predicament with the Hammers and the importance of the early-competition encounter.
“But, for me, the Carabao Cup is just as important as it’s a first-team fixture and it’s a game we want to win.”
However, it won’t just be his new manager that the versatile youngster will be looking to impress in an aim to gain more starts, it will also be members of the England International set-up.
Rice was omitted from the latest Ireland squad for the start of the UEFA Nations League, manager Martin O’Neill confirming that he is considering his International future after discussions with England.
The No41 was born and raised in London but his heritage is mostly Irish and he is already capped multiple times for them, none of them preventing him for playing for other nations due to the fact they were only friendlies.
The cup clash, which can be watched by millions of Hammers in the UK as it is being shown live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football, will also offer the whole team a chance to gain some much-needed confidence.
Pellegrini’s new-look Hammers have fallen to three defeats in their first three consecutive games together and everyone associated with the club will be desperately hoping that both Rice and West Ham can shine brightly in South London, in the Carabao Cup.