Ashley Cole has raved about the ‘clever’ West Ham United player Declan Rice, who was in action for England on Saturday during the UEFA Nations League win against Iceland.
The former Chelsea left-back stated that he sees Rice as an ‘integral’ part of Gareth Southgate’s plans going forward, as he told Sky Sports Football (05/09/20 at 4:50 pm).
It was a game of luck for the Three Lions, who were down to 10 men in the second half when Kyle Walker was shown a second yellow for a daft tackle, with Raheem Sterling netting a stoppage-time penalty.
But the drama didn’t stop there because moments later, Liverpool’s Joe Gomez gave away a penalty but former Aston Villa midfielder Birkir Bjarnason blazed his shot horribly over the bar.
Nonetheless, Rice started the game in the number six role, as Cole was asked whether Southgate can build the England team around him.
“I would say yes,” Cole told Sky Sports. “Gareth alluded to Dier wanting to play centre-back a little bit more and I think Rice can step in.
“I think he has been very good for West Ham. He’s definitely a key player for West Ham. What he brings is that he can tackle. He can break up the play. He’s clever, and he can pass.
“You want him to be brave on the ball. Break things up but then penetrate things through lines with a quality pass that he’s got. And again, he is a big, strong lad. He’s not afraid to put himself about and win tackles. So, he’s going to be integral for England going forward.”
West Ham’s record transfers
Rice now has some competition for that holding role with England following the emergence of Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips.
The Elland Road academy product is yet to earn his first Three Lions cap or play in the Premier League, but these coming months will be ideal for him to pip ahead of the West Ham player.
Another player who has deployed that role is Tottenham’s, Harry Winks. But he’s less defensive orientated than the above duo and is tidier on the ball.