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Declan Rice ready for ‘pinch me moment’ when he captains England against Belgium

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 25 Mar 2024

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Declan Rice is ready for a “pinch me moment” when he captains England for the first time on Tuesday against Belgium.

The Arsenal midfielder, who will win his 50th England cap in the friendly, has been in great form for the Gunners since his club-record £105million move across London from West Ham last summer.

His fine season will continue when he leads his country out as skipper in front of a sold-out Wembley in the final match before manager Gareth Southgate names his 23-man squad for Euro 2024.

“Fifty caps is a pinch me moment,” he said. “It is going to be an honour tomorrow night and I’m really looking forward to it. I think I’ve grown so much as a player and a person since I first came into the group at 19.

“I was probably a bit of a nervous player when I first came into the England squad but as time has gone on, I’ve played more Premier League games, more games at higher levels, big major tournaments.

“I think I’ve grown into it in the side. I’ve enjoyed every single moment of it.”

Asked about Southgate’s decision to name Rice as captain in what will likely be a much-changed side, the former West Ham skipper added: “I was speechless to be honest, absolutely lost for words, when he said to me last night I was going to be captain.

“I gave him a hug, shook his hand, and said ‘thanks very much’. I owe him a lot. Since I first came into the team he’s always made me feel at home.

“I’ve always felt so comfortable playing under him. I’ve really grown in confidence, for my 50th cap to walk out at Wembley in front of my family and friends, it’s an absolute honour, you can see it in my face, a bit speechless to be honest with you.”

Southgate handed Rice his debut in 2019, with the midfielder having already received three senior caps for the Republic of Ireland.

For the Kingston-born Rice, though, Southgate always saw a potential leader even from such a young age.

“Its his 50th cap, he has great leadership experience already at a tender age,” he said.

“No question (he had leadership potential). You get a feel for a human being, and often their family play a big part in that.

“With Dec you could sense that stability, maturity in the decision-making process that he’s going through. And of course he’s led from a very young age at West Ham as well.

“He’s already gained some good experiences and I’m pushing him in that aspect as well. Because it would be easy to take a little step back as we’ve got a lot of older players here, but some of our young ones have got great leadership already.

“They’re more than entitled to be bossing the older ones round a little bit as well, and being demanding of them and of us as a coaching staff, and driving the team, he’s got all those qualities and the respect of everybody to do that.”

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