Advertisement

Declan Rice: As England captain I’ll be thinking of players I’ve learned from

Declan Rice will have plenty of players – past and present – running through his thoughts when he leads England out as captain for the first time on Tuesday night.

As well as reaching a half-century of caps, Rice will also wear the armband at Wembley in what is England’s final friendly before manager Gareth Southgate names his squad for Euro 2024.

While he has never captained his country, Rice was West Ham skipper as they won the Europa Conference League last season – his final game before a club-record £105million move to Arsenal followed.

He has established himself as one of the best players in the Premier League this season as the Gunners push for the Premier League title and prepare for a Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich.

Rice, 25, follows in the footsteps of England’s World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore – who was at West Ham at the time of the 1966 success – and also pointed to the influence of his former Hammers skipper Mark Noble and current Arsenal leader Martin Odegaard.

“I’ve just got to think about everyone along the way who helped me,” he said. “I’ve had one of the best captains in Mark Noble. He’s already text me and I think he’ll be coming to the game tomorrow night.

“People like that, I’ve learned so much from both as a player and person, captain and leader.

“Then when I come to England, seeing players like Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson and how they are around the group. You pick up little things from everyone. And when I got to captain West Ham, I was growing in confidence and as a leader.

“I still see myself going that way. There is Martin Odegaard at my club. I’m not thinking about it, but if anything were to ever happen to him, I really would love to put the armband on for Arsenal.

“I love leading and being captain. It’s a real honour.”

Asked about the links to Moore, Rice added: “Having 10 years at West Ham has shaped me into the person I am today, no doubt.

“It’s a real honour you know. There’s only been a certain amount of people that have captained England. It’s a one-off game, but to be able to put the armband on, it will be really special.”

Rice admitted giving the pre-match team talk would be the part of the evening he looked forward to the least.

“That’s the worst bit! Harry always speaks, then the other night it was (Kyle) Walker,” he added.

“(Kieran) Trippier before – when he was captain – did a funny speech and messed it up and everyone started laughing so I know there is going to be a bit of pressure on me.

“But I’ll keep it short and sweet before the game…make sure everyone’s on it and make sure everyone knows what’s at stake tomorrow night.

Declan Rice (right) controls the ball - England v Brazil
Declan Rice (right) follows in the footsteps of England’s World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore (Nick Potts/PA)

“We obviously lost the other night to Brazil at Wembley but now it’s another chance to go out and win a game of football and you don’t ever want to lose two games in a row, especially as England.

“So it’s going to be a big night, so it’s just about relaying that message. We have to start fast and we have to win the game.”

While Rice will no doubt have his full attention on captaining England, Arsenal travel to Manchester City on Sunday in a game which could go a long way to deciding the destination of the Premier League title.

Rice may be fully aware of the gravity of the Easter Day clash – but it does not seem to have resonated with England team-mate and City defender John Stones.

“The first day I came I saw John Stones and he didn’t even know they were playing us next,” he revealed.

“When he’s away from football he likes to be with his family and switch off and I get that, he likes to take one game at a time.

“I said ‘big game next’ and John said ‘who are you playing’? I said ‘we’ve got you lot’! He said ‘oh yeah’. That tells you how much we speak about it when we’re here.

“With Walks (Kyle Walker) he always has a little bit of banter, he’s a great lad. As lads, we have a bit if banter but inside us we know what a big game it’s going to be, a potential title-decider, it’s going to be really tight.”