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Declan Rice exclusive: “Man United got to the Europa League final last year against Villarreal – so why not West Ham?”

Declan Rice
(Image credit: PA)

West Ham have gone from strength to strength under David Moyes over the last two years and now find themselves fourth in the Premier League table and top of their Europa League group after five matches. 

Now midfield general Declan Rice believes it's time for the club to take things to the next level by challenging for silverware, starting with European football. 

"With the squad we’ve got and how well we’ve been doing at the moment, it would only be right if we said we want to push ourselves for some sort of trophy,” Rice exclusively tells the December issue of FourFourTwo, which you can order here

“We’re in the Europa League, we’re still in the League Cup, there’s the FA Cup, and we’re going to go strong in all of them. Manchester United got to the Europa League final last year against Villarreal, so why not us? We need to keep being positive and keep playing well, but we’re confident that we can push for those things now. As players we all want to win stuff, and the fans haven’t seen us win something for ages.”

Rice has become an integral for both club and country over the past 12 months, playing an integral role for England throughout the nation's run to the Euro 2020 final. He explains to FFT how his game has found new depths in recent months. 

“This has definitely been my best year,” he says. “At such a young age, you never think you’d get the chance to play in such big matches. Big opportunities have come around and I’ve stepped up this year, really learned and known where I had to improve. I’m still improving but I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it – it’s been really positive. 

“I think it’s just my all-round confidence on a football pitch now – once those first couple of touches have happened, you feel like you’re going to fly straight through the game. My driving with the ball has probably improved as well. I spoke about it last year and feel like I’ve really done that well to start the season off. 

“On the ball I’ve been more progressive: mixing up my game, playing longer passes and much more progressive shorter passes. I’m trying to add a little bit of everything.”

Rice had also begun to regularly skipper West Ham, with club captain and mentor Mark Noble usually on the bench because of his advancing years. 

“I really enjoy being the captain,” says Rice. “I’m chilled about it, but I do like the responsibility and having the armband on. You feel a great sense of pride to captain West Ham, particularly when we’ve got 60,000 at our stadium again now. It’s just really special, and there’s no one better than Nobes to help me out with it. “

"Qualifying for Europe was massive for the club. There have been so many ups at West Ham this year – there used to be more downs than ups, relegation battles... it was stressful coming into training. Now it’s completely turned around. It’s been so good; the way everyone is around the place, the manager. It’s a great laugh on the training field, but when it’s time to be serious and work, we work. You can see that on the pitch – we work for each other. Every time we go onto the field, we give everyone a game.”

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Ed McCambridge

Ed McCambridge is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working for the magazine and website. Ed has been living in Berlin since 2015 and worked as a Bundesliga reporter before joining FFT. Formerly a season ticket holder at AFC Wimbledon, he's now most commonly spotted at local side Union Berlin.