England manager Gareth Southgate has explained why Declan Rice was not handed a first start for the Three Lions against the Czech Republic.
The West Ham talent switched allegiances to the Three Lions after making three appearances for the Republic of Ireland, all of which came in friendly matches, and was in the hunt for a starting berth in Southgate’s squad.
However, the England boss decided to overlook Rice for the first game of the qualifying campaign for the 2020 European Championships, instead opting to utilise Tottenham Hotspur’s Eric Dier and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson.
Speaking ahead of the game, Southgate explained his decision – and stated he has been impressed by what he has seen from the 20-year-old so far.
“He has trained really well but he’s only had a few days with us. We need some of our leaders on the field as well, we’ve had to make some changes, so it’s important we’ve got some stability but some really exciting attacking talent,” he told ITV ahead of their coverage of the match.
After excelling for Manuel Pellegrini’s side this season, many would have expected Rice to be handed an opportunity from the start but former Chelsea and West Ham ace Joe Cole believes it is only a matter of time.
“He’s not been in this system, he’s coming in from the cold, but I imagine Declan’s form would have tempted Gareth to play him in that role,” he said.
“I think it’s the right decision just to bed him in, show him what it’s about, but he’ll be chomping at their feet with the form he’s in at the moment. If that continues, it’s only going to be one way and Rice will get into that team.”
Former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon agreed with that statement, adding:
“I think he’s gone for a little bit of safety there, releasing Alli to get further forward, but also it might be a nice bedding in period for Declan Rice, get him in gently rather than throwing him straight in.”