• Manager hails Rice as England’s best holding midfielder
• ‘Declan is carrying a lot of the West Ham team at the moment’
David Moyes believes Declan Rice is the best holding midfielder in the country and admitted West Ham’s struggles on and off the pitch mean they are in danger of losing the 21-year-old in the summer.
Rice has featured in every minute of every Premier League fixture this season and been one of the few positives for West Ham during a tumultuous period. They are in the relegation zone following five games without a win – a spell that has also seen them lose to West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup – with hopes of things getting better soon looking bleak given they visit Manchester City on Sunday before a trip to Liverpool after the winter break. On top of that there has been supporter unrest against the board, with a protest involving banners and black balloons planned for the match at Anfield.
Few could blame Rice, then, if he were considering leaving West Ham despite having signed a long-term contract extension less than 14 months ago with the club he joined at academy level. Moyes accepts it is possible Rice could be sold but hopes it does not prove the case given the England international’s importance to the side, in the short- and long-term.
“In my mind he is arguably the best holding midfield player in the country and the best thing about Declan is he will get better,” said Moyes, who also worked with Rice during his first spell as West Ham manager. “Declan is carrying a lot of the team at the moment and he’s the one who will carry on from Mark Noble when it comes to an end for him.
“Quite often when building a club you have to sell. I hope it’s not the case with Declan but I said the same with Wayne Rooney and Joleon Lescott [at Everton]. But the team got better because we were able to sign the right players to replace them. If that ever came around [Rice leaving] I’d hope we’d be able to do the same here as well.”
The games against City and Liverpool are part of a daunting run for West Ham that includes trips to Arsenal and Tottenham as well as home contests with Wolves and Chelsea. Moyes, who could hand Jarrod Bowen a debut at the Eithad Stadium following his £22m arrival from Hull, is adamant his side can gather crucial points in the coming weeks but only if they are backed by the fans.
“For us to be a Premier League club we need the supporters to help us,” he said. “If they don’t it becomes too hard.”