The 20-year-old has become a hugely popular figure with fans after starring for the Hammers over the last 12 months, earning a nomination for the PFA Young Player of the Year award and forcing his way into Gareth Southgate’s England squad.
But he suffered a crisis of confidence at the start of the 2018/19 campaign.
Rice was substituted at half-time as West Ham lost 4-0 against Liverpool on the opening day of last season, and admits that he began to doubt if he was ready to play regularly in the Premier League.
After being out of the team for the next three matches, he asked boss Manuel Pellegrini to go out on loan to the Championship.
“I wanted to go to Aston Villa under Steve Bruce,” Rice reveals in an exclusive interview for the new issue of FourFourTwo magazine, in shops on Wednesday.
The Hammers were 2-0 down to goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané when Rice was subbed at Anfield last August.
“I remember speaking to Ryan Fredericks on the plane on the way home, and I was thinking that I should go on loan,” he says. “Being dragged off at Anfield and then being left out of the squad for the next couple of matches, it really made me think.
“West Brom, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa wanted me. I was pushing for Villa the most. I remember speaking to the manager here, saying that I should go on loan. He just laughed it off and said, ‘You’re not going on loan!’ He said, ‘You’re going to stay, and you’re going to play’. He told me that I had to get back into the team.
“I thought, ‘Well, if I’m not going to go on loan, then I have to give it everything here’. I realised that I needed to get much better if I wanted to play in the Premier League.”
Get the October 2019 issue of FourFourTwo magazine on Wednesday. Sorry, Hammers fans...
Rice has progressed to stardom with club and country despite being released by Chelsea when he was 14 – much to his amazement.
“They called my dad and told him,” he says. “I’d thought I was a certainty to get another contract there. When my dad told me, I was distraught. I’d grown up as a Chelsea fan – that’s what I’d known my whole life, so I was thinking ‘What am I going to do next?’
“At the time when I got released by Chelsea, I thought they’d made a mistake, so I knew I had a point to prove. Now they’re probably looking back on it – the person who made the decision – and thinking, ‘Maybe we’ve messed up here’.
“But that doesn’t matter now. I’m working hard, I’m at West Ham, and I’m here to get better. My family haven’t been to a Chelsea game in about three years – we’re just West Ham now, home and away. It’s special here.”
Rice also speaks about his close relationship with ‘father figure’ Mark Noble, and the pair appear alongside Pablo Zabaleta in a separate video for Betway, the main sponsors of West Ham. View it here:
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