We need to talk about Declan Rice. The young player has been in the news a great deal the last few weeks following his decision to consider changing allegiance from Republic of Ireland to England. Rice is a young man right at the start of what promises to be a fantastic career and West Ham are very lucky to have him. He was one of the few glimmers of hope in what was an abject season last time out. His cool assured play brought plaudits from both inside and outside the club and saw him claim runner-up up in the Hammer of the Year award. At International level, Rice has featured 3 times in friendlies for the Republic and was named Man of the Match in all of them, he looked so at home that many Irish pundits were citing him as a captain of the future.
The question of nationality is a difficult one, your country of birth may not be the country of your ancestry and as such, it is very plausible that you will be brought up as Irish despite being born in England and having lived here your entire life. It’s a situation I know and understand as my parents moved to London before I was born. I was brought up as Irish and if I was lucky enough to be in Declan’s situation, there would be no decision to make. Nationality is a deeply emotive thing very personal to the individual and is one of the reasons his decision to turn down the call up from the Republic has produced the wide-ranging reactions.
Some have condemned Declan, others make the point that England are the better side or that he is more likely to get into the Republic’s team, in my view your nationality is about how you feel, it has nothing to do with football, it’s to do with your roots and heritage. It has been pointed out that if Declan was to become a full England International then the commercial possibilities are far greater than being an Irish international. While this might be true, it shouldn’t be a consideration at all and Declan has no greater example than his club captain for the right way to handle the situation. During the 2015-16 season, Mark Noble was undoubtedly one of the best midfielders in the country and as such, his name was being mentioned with a possible call up to the England squad. Like Declan, Noble has Irish heritage and the Republic made it very clear he would be welcomed into the fold with open arms. Here’s the thing, Noble turned the Republic down because his dream was to play for England, he felt English and as such turned the call down.
Noble said on the situation:
“I have represented England at all the age levels, but have never won a senior cap, it’s my dream to play for England and to swap allegiance now and stand in the way of an Irish kid whose dream it is to play for Ireland having never played for the them at youth level would be very wrong, I couldn’t do that.”
I lay the blame for this situation at FIFA’s door, this situation should not be possible. Once you have played a full international for a country that should be that, regardless of the status of the game. To have it any other way just completely devalues International football.
I disagree with his indecision and as a Republic fan, I hope he stays with the Boys in Green, but I don’t blame Rice here, he is a young man whose every decision is played out in the public eye. I see Rice as being integral to the future of West Ham and a future captain in the making, the club need to take care of him though, this situation he needs to be protected and nurtured. West Ham fans love a home-grown talent and Declan has the ability to get right to the top. I hope he forces his way into the starting eleven soon, heaven knows we could do with his composure, Declan has the potential to be a West Ham legend, regardless of his nationality decision. I look forward to seeing him develop into a true West Ham great – given the right guidance, I don’t see any reason why that is not a real possibility.