Declan Rice admits ‘it’s on us’ as West Ham’s Champions League hopes all but end

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Declan Rice admits West Ham only have themselves to blame after their fading hopes of Champions League qualification were almost certainly extinguished but insists there are “plenty of exciting times” ahead.

The high-flying Hammers had designs on reaching European club football’s premier competition for the first time having enjoyed a fine season under the management of David Moyes.

But Saturday evening’s frustrating 1-1 draw at lowly Brighton left the east London club five points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea with just two games remaining.

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Influential England midfielder Rice, who returned from a six-week injury absence to captain the visitors at the Amex Stadium, is now focused on securing a Europa League place while trying to break the club’s record Premier League points tally of 62.

“It’s obviously horrible because we had Champions League spots in our sights and we can’t really be relying on other teams around us to be losing and picking up draws,” he told Sky Sports.

“We need to go out and be winning, it’s on us if we want to do that.

“As of late, we’ve drawn too many, we’ve lost a few games as well and if you want to be competing for the Champions League, you need to win the games that we’ve lost.

“At one stage it looked possible but that’s football, we’re still going to be upbeat.

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“We’re on 59 (points) now, we can finish on 65 if we win our last two. That would be West Ham’s best ever season and hopefully some sort of Europe.

“Every West Ham fan watching, everyone around the world, everyone I speak to is buzzing with how this year’s gone and so am I.

“There are plenty of exciting times to look forward to.”

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Said Benrahma’s maiden Hammers goal salvaged a point on the south coast after Danny Welbeck put the hosts ahead with his 50th Premier League goal.

West Ham travel to relegated West Brom on Wednesday before hosting Southampton.

Last season saw Moyes’ men escape relegation by just five points, with Rice quick to reference the vast improvement.

“This season has been outstanding, we’ve given everything,” he said.

“If you compare our two seasons – last year to this year – the change around has been phenomenal. It’s been a pleasure to be a part of.”

David Moyes, left, and Graham Potter
West Ham have shone this year under David Moyes, left, while Graham Potter will look to build on Brighton’s survival (Mike Hewitt/PA)

Rice was back in top-flight action for the first time since the 3-3 draw with Arsenal on March 21, having picked up a knee problem on international duty.

With England boss Gareth Southgate watching from the stands in Sussex and the rescheduled Euro 2020 just around the corner, the 22-year-old is delighted with his return to fitness.

“It was great to be back. The injury was a shock; after playing so many games you kind of feel like you are going to be invincible and never pick up an injury,” said Rice.

“I just had to stay positive, attack it, give everything in the gym to get myself back and to get 90 minutes – I didn’t think I’d be able to do it – just shows that hard work pays off.”

Brighton have now dropped 25 points from winning positions following their 14th draw of the campaign.

Graham Potter’s Seagulls, who are safe from relegation, remain 17th ahead of tricky fixtures against champions Manchester City and Arsenal.

“How do we make the next steps? It’s a simple question to ask and I don’t think we are far away, but we are aware of what we still need to do,” said Albion boss Potter.

“There’s a lot to be excited about.

“We have given a lot of young players a chance and they will get better and better. We’re optimistic but we know there is still work to be done.”

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