|Venue: Fortuna Arena, Prague Date: Wednesday, 7 June Kick-off: 20:00 BST|
|Coverage: Listen dwell on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sport web site & app; dwell textual content on BBC Sport web site & app|
The intrepid group of younger West Ham followers taking a circuitous route from London to Prague through Manchester for the Europa Conference League last selected only one track to sing on their flight to the Czech Republic.
It is a track that will likely be repeated loads of occasions earlier than and throughout the match in opposition to Serie A facet Fiorentina at Eden Arena on Wednesday – a contest that stands between West Ham and their first trophy of any significance since 1980.
“One more year, one more year, Declan Rice.”
But these supporters know, similar to everybody else is aware of, they’re unlikely to get their want.
However the ultimate works out, it’s more likely to be Rice’s final recreation for West Ham.
Nine years after he joined them as a 14-year-old, following rejection by Chelsea, after 245 appearances – together with this last – three membership participant of the 12 months awards and a season as captain, Rice is able to settle for one of many many affords coming his means from among the largest golf equipment within the recreation.
Rice is aware of he can bow out a hero.
The solely man to captain West Ham to victory in a European last is known World Cup winner Bobby Moore. The solely different man to guide the Hammers to victory in any last is Billy Bonds, a defender whose standing is seared into the membership’s historical past as considered one of their perfect.
If West Ham can beat Fiorentina, that’s the firm Rice will deservedly take his place alongside.
“It would be my biggest achievement in football so far, 100%,” he stated in an interview with the West Ham web site.
“It would just mean everything, to lift that trophy, especially to be with the lads, wanting to see them smiling again and lift the trophy, to see our families afterward with the trophy.
“It’s in our palms. It’s an opportunity to go and create a legacy the place each single participant, the supervisor, everybody concerned will likely be remembered without end.”
Rice’s journey to the highest
In an article on this web site in March 2019, I told the story of how Rice caught the attention of Arsene Wenger during an Under-18s match being played at Arsenal’s London Colney training ground.
It is ironic, if not surprising, that Rice could be returning to Colney on an almost daily basis next season if the Gunners’ long-standing interest in the 24-year-old is matched by the kind of fee West Ham believe the England midfielder to be worth, which is going to be somewhere near £100m.
Rice’s ascent to stardom has not been easy.
He spent eight years in Chelsea’s academy before they decided he was not for them.
West Ham felt he had something but even they were not totally sure. Rice was the only player in his year group given a scholarship without the offer of a guaranteed professional contract.
But then, as now, Rice listened to his coaches and worked on the areas he was told to improve.
Matthew Upson is keen to stress his involvement in Rice’s career was minimal compared to some of his coaches.
However, the former England defender was asked to be Rice’s mentor when the pair’s paths crossed at West Ham.
“I actually loved working with him,” Upson told BBC Sport. “He was so receptive. He had the power to take criticism or suggestions. It did not deter him. He took all of it in such a optimistic means and had the intelligence to soak up the data and add it to his recreation, which is an actual talent.
“Declan was already at a super high level when I worked with him in terms of what he was capable of. You could see the ability he had in his character to be at the top of the game. That is him. Nobody has added that or given it to him. That is just Declan. That is his star quality.
“He has labored actually exhausting at his recreation, bodily and technically. David Moyes took him into the primary workforce. As with all footballers, so many individuals have performed an element and little bits. But Declan’s fundamental asset is that he has been in a position to take that every one on board and make himself higher.”
Watching West Ham train before the Fiorentina match, it was striking how easy Rice makes it look.
Tuesday’s session was not the most intense or tactical – purposely so given the cameras had been allowed in – but it was amazing how much room Rice managed to find for himself, even in an 11-a-side game on half a pitch.
At one point he moved out wide to receive possession, then whipped over a perfectly delivered cross from the left wing for Thilo Kehrer to head home. Within a minute he had provided Michail Antonio with the opportunity to execute a close-range finish from a low cross.
More than anything, he covers ground quickly and closes down space.
“He is a really mature participant for his age,” says Upson. “He can deal with accountability amazingly nicely, which is why he was such a younger captain within the Premier League.
“Players don’t usually come into their own in that position until their late 20s. For someone of Declan’s age, the level he is playing at now is exceptional.”
Rice ‘units the tone’ & leads by instance
Upson believes Rice will profit from the struggles West Ham have endured within the Premier League this season, because it has taught him extra about coping with strain on and off the pitch after two seasons of – largely – success at a membership the place expectations will not be the equal of these he’s tipped to hitch.
Even if their demand for “one more year” goes unheeded, few West Ham followers will begrudge Rice his transfer. And no-one may accuse him of coasting by the season and distancing himself from the membership.
Twelve months in the past, when Mark Noble was having a pitch named after him on the membership’s academy at Chadwell Heath, Rice was there for the disclosing.
When West Ham received the FA Youth Cup at Arsenal in April, Rice was a central determine within the dressing room celebrations at Emirates Stadium.
Now, he has yet another job. He will pull that shirt on yet another time, slot his hand by captain’s armband and prepare to go.
“A lot of captains lead by example because of how they play,” stated Upson. “But they might not be vocal or have the personality around the dressing room.
“Declan units the tone together with his efficiency however he additionally has the character, voice and character to go along with it.
“I am sure Declan will be thinking about will be his own individual performance. That is the only thing he can truly take care of.
“Then he has to consider how he can affect others. That is especially from main by instance, by how he begins the sport, that first little bit of strain, the primary sort out, how he carries himself settling into the sport.
“Sealing it with a win is a by-product of that. If you focus on that too much, you can take your eye off the thing that is going to win you the game, which is your individual performance and how you can affect your team-mates.
“His subsequent transfer? Who is aware of. But he’s able to going proper to the highest of the sport.”