Declan Rice has spoken of his love still for West Ham and admits leaving this summer was his hardest decision he’s made in his professional life.
The former Hammers captain, who joined the clubs Academy of Football at just 14 years old, departed east London after 10 years in a club record £105m move to Arsenal this summer.
Although the exit had been widely expected for some time, not many could have written the script better, with the midfielder bidding farewell by lifting the Europa Conference League trophy in Prague – West Ham’s first piece of silverware in 47 years.
Despite making the move across the capital, Rice hasn’t lost any love for the club where he grew into the player and man he is today, and admitted he is still in regular contact with people at West Ham
“It was definitely the hardest decision I’ve had to make so far in football,” Rice told fellow former Hammer Joe Cole, when questioned on Channel 4’s coverage of Englands draw with Ukraine.
“Everyone knows my love for West Ham still even now. But overall it was a fairytale ending for me.
“I was obviously released at 14, went to West Ham, signed a two-year deal and once everything clicked in terms of my growth spurt, realised what position I am, put myself in a position where it was all or nothing really.
“I was kept in and around the first team and once I made my debut I’ve not looked back since.”
“I can’t explain the feelings, you know people leave clubs and you know they lose affiliation with that club. I still speak to the boys regularly, I text the manager at the start of the season saying ‘good luck boss’ he text me back.
“So we’ve got a good relationship, people at the club you know we’re still constantly talking and you know I never want it to not be like that.”
Rice was also asked by Cole whether he noticed a step up when joining the Arsenal ranks from West Ham, with Rice admitting that there is no difference, and it was more about advancing as a player for him personally.
“No, towards the end of my time at West Ham the players we had were unbelievable. But I would say the difference is the way now I’m having to play is much more advanced.”
The words from our former captain are sure to resonate with many connected with the club, who no doubt have found it somewhat painful seeing the England star represent another club besides our Hammers.
However, the interview with Rice yesterday demonstrated his love for West Ham is still very much intact, with it clear that the transfer this summer was a very difficult moment in his career.