AMID the scenes of unbridled joy that engulfed Wembley after the final whistle, West Ham’s own Declan Rice once again demonstrated why he is one of the brightest young sporting personalities this country has produced.
With emotion running wild and team-mates leaping around him, Declan — with that familiar beaming grin stretched across his face — revealed he had become an uncle again at virtually the same moment Harry Kane fired the ball past Kasper Schmeichel in extra-time to send England into their first major tournament final in 55 years.
Declan Rice has starred in midfield for England during the EurosCredit: PA
He said: “My brother has literally had a baby as the second goal went in. He’s crying his eyes out. He’s had a little girl.
“It’s a special night all round. It’s our first final since ’66 so I want to do it for the people at home. I’m a fan as well — I wish I was with them cheering.”
And that, in essence, sums up Declan.
A genuine, polite and humble young man, absolutely dedicated to his family and his football. A fan at heart who — had he not been playing a key role in Gareth Southgate’s midfield engine room on Wednesday — would have been in the stands or in front of the TV with the rest of us, cheering on the Three Lions.
For us at West Ham United, it is no surprise to see Declan representing himself, his family and his nation with such character and integrity both on and off the pitch.
He has been representing his club in exactly the same way, showing that unassuming yet commanding leadership with the willingness to keep learning and improving ever since he first came through the doors of the academy at Chadwell Heath and we couldn’t be prouder.
He epitomises the Never Give Up attitude that has been instilled as a key pillar of the West Ham Way since Arnold Hills formed the club.
Despite his rise to fame since his first-team debut just over four years ago, he has remained the same popular, likeable and unaffected ‘Dec’ — adored and admired by team-mates, coaches and staff alike.
Declan Rice remains a hugely popular figure in the dressing roomCredit: The Sun
West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady is a columnist for SunSportCredit: PR Handout – Free to use
When our Under-23 academy team are playing, you will often see him in the stands, there to support the lads he came through the junior ranks alongside, while he regularly pops back to Chadwell Heath to chat with the coaches who steered his early development or offer a word of advice to the youngsters.
Of course, he has learned from the best in Mark Noble, who has guided him in understanding what it takes to wear the armband and lead our club, not only on the pitch but off it, too.
His efforts to support our community during the pandemic, be that a call to the over 70s or our Any Old Irons, have been a true demonstration of his character.
In my almost 30 years of working in the professional game, I can safely say Declan is up there with the greats.
A young player who reaches the very pinnacle of the game, representing his country on the biggest stage of all, yet at the same time retaining the endearing, down-to-earth qualities that earn such respect and admiration among both his peers and public. He is a superstar, yet still the boy next door.
Now he can follow in the footsteps of three of his West Ham academy predecessors by helping England to tournament glory for only the second time in our nation’s history.
Bobby Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters earned immortality at Wembley on July 30, 1966.
Tomorrow, Declan Rice can secure his own place in the pantheon of greats. Nobody deserves it more.
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