Declan Rice has said his decision to declare for England was the “toughest” of his career to date.
The West Ham star announced his decision to play international football for England last month despite having lined out for Ireland in three senior international friendlies.
Rice said at the time that his decision to switch allegiances was “a personal decision that I have made with my heart and my head, based on what I believe is best for my future.”
The 20-year-old picked up the Young Player of the Year gong at the London Football Awards last night and he spoke publically about his decision to play for England for the first time.
“It is the toughest decision I have had to make so far in my career,” Rice said, speaking to Sky Sports News.
“Being so young, I didn’t think I would ever be in a position to make that call but it’s one that I have made and one that I am looking forward to in the future.”
Last week, Ireland boss Mick McCarthy said he had “known for two months” that Rice would declare for England.
“I’d known for two months that he wasn’t joining us – all I needed was it confirming,” McCarthy said. “You might say ‘How did I know that?’ I just got a feeling, having met and spoken to him. All he had to do was say ‘yeah, I’m staying with you guys, I’m playing’.
“Once he hadn’t done that I was very doubtful but I was not going to say that, I wasn’t going to put words in his mouth and I wasn’t going to leave it open for anyone to say I had driven him away because I hadn’t, that’s for sure. So I just continued to wait for an answer. But when he told me, I’d known for a couple of months.”
Rice has enjoyed a successful spell with the Hammers since Manuel Pellegrini took charge this year, making 25 appearances so far this season.
“I am loving it, I am really enjoying it,” Rice told Sky Sports News about his season so far.
“Last year was tough because I was in and out of the side and the start of this season was tough.
“I am playing with a smile on my face, which is the main thing.”