Declan Rice is eager to cement himself as a West Ham legend by becoming only the second captain to lift a European trophy at the club.
Since making his Premier League debut against Burnley, Rice has developed into a world class player, an excellent leader and even better man. He’s represented the club so well and is among some of the finest players that the academy has produced.
With his West Ham journey, seemingly, in the final act, he is determined to give his all to create that fairy tale ending. “Every time I put on the shirt, I know how big it is.” Rice told WHUFC.com. “This will be the biggest match that the Club has had in so long, so it’s going to be an honour to be part of and hopefully we can create some history on the night for the fans to cheer about.”
Last season, the Hammers came just short of the Europa League final and, while Rice hasn’t put it behind him, he made it clear that his side must use that experience to “create a legacy”. He admitted that “the feeling of the defeat we had last year against Eintracht Frankfurt, and the way the two legs went… it lives with you.”
“This year, going into the semi-final, we just looked at it and thought, ‘What an opportunity.’ And to go out there and do it – we’ve already created history by getting to the final, but now there’s a chance to go and create a legacy where every single player, the manager, everyone involved will be remembered forever.”
While he did get to the final of the European Championships with England, winning the Conference League would top that easily for him. “I think it would be my biggest achievement I’ve had in football so far,” he confirmed. “I think that would be for a lot of us. I think to win a trophy like this, a European trophy, with West Ham, I think it puts every player at a higher status within the Club in terms of with the fans, how you’ll be remembered.”
West Ham were battling relegation just a few years ago, so to be in a European final in itself is unthinkable but if the players can go on to actually win the trophy, their names will never be forgotten in East London.
“I think it would just mean everything, to be honest. Just to lift that trophy,” Rice continued. “Especially to be with the lads as well – our group of boys are such good people”. The club has got together a group of really likable individuals and there’s no doubt that Rice has played a big role in uniting them this season.
Rice went on to say how the idea of getting West Ham another season of European nights has got the “fire in our belly”. He carried on, saying that “there are loads of things that add to it, but for me it’s just about wanting to see the lads smiling again and wanting to lift the trophy, wanting to see our families after with the trophy, just everything that we’ve got 90 minutes to do.”
West Ham are just one game away from winning their first European trophy since Bobby Moore lifted the Cup Winners Cup back in 1965. Declan knows what it would mean to the club, he knows what needs to be done and he will give it his all to make this game a historic one. “It’s in our hands, so we’re going to push to do that.” Just one day to go now, let’s hope the club experiences ecstasy at the final whistle tomorrow night.
By Charlie Bass