Declan Rice makes England vow as Arsenal star prepares to step into new role

Declan Rice makes England vow as Arsenal star prepares to step into new role

Declan Rice says he is ready to answer Gareth Southgate’s call by stepping up as a dressing-room leader at Euro 2024.

The absence of Jordan Henderson from Southgate’s provisional 33-man tournament squad has left England short of seniority, particularly in midfield, but the manager has called for some of his younger players, including Rice, to “fill that gap”.

The Arsenal midfielder, 25, was named England captain for the first time on his 50th cap for the friendly against Belgium in March and says he is ready for more responsibility this summer.

“Me and Gareth have had that conversation before privately — that I can be a leader, can be more vocal in the dressing room,” Rice said. “I love helping my team-mates, I love putting them first. I think that’s a really important quality to have.”

Rice was among the first group to report to Middlesbrough’s Rockcliffe Park HQ yesterday as the squad begins preparations for Germany.

“It’s the biggest thing you can do, winning something for your country,” Rice added in an interview with ITV. “Your name just gets put in a completely different light.

“We were obviously so close in [the Euros in] 2021.The reaction we had, coming out after losing the final, people coming up to you in the street, was a whole other level to what I’d experienced. To have the challenge of winning it on foreign soil is one I’m looking forward to.”

England face Serbia, Denmark and Slovenia in the group stage, and will warm up with games against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday and Iceland four days later.

Southgate says he is hoping to use the matches to experiment with his provisional squad, which includes uncapped youngsters James Trafford, Jarell Quansah, Jarrad Branthwaite, Curtis Jones and Adam Wharton.

“We had a level of opponent in March that we ranked in the top five [in the world],” Southgate said. “We didn’t necessarily want that for this camp, because the demands here are about getting the right physical aspect, as well as trying one or two things, getting combinations going and getting a bit of cohesion.”

More England players will report to camp today, with Jude Bellingham set to be the last to arrive after playing for Real Madrid in Saturday’s Champions League Final and not expected to play in either friendly.

Manchester United pair Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw were the first to arrive as they battle to be fit for the tournament.

“[They] had injuries at the end of the season, so they needed a little bit more work with our medical team,” Southgate said. “But they’re both hugely committed to trying to be fit for the tournament and they realise that every day is important.”