The 20-year-old is widely expected to feature at some point in the Three Lions’ Euro 2020 qualifier against Czech Republic on Friday night, and Higginbotham, who features regularly as a pundit for Sky, believes he could have a big impact.
“Declan Rice will also add a huge amount to this side,” he wrote in his column for The Sun. “Yes, he’s great defensively — he’s made more tackles and interceptions than any other midfielder under 21 in Europe’s top five leagues.
“But what impresses me most is how he doesn’t take the easy option with the ball. He always looks forward. With the pace England have, Rice can get them on the front foot straight away.”
It would be a major shock is Rice doesn’t end up playing some part against Czech Republic on Friday. He appears to have the defensive midfield position wide open for him, unless Gareth Southgate sticks with old reliable Jordan Henderson against the Czechs. However, a midfield three of Rice, Henderson and Dele Alli sounds possible. That would allow the Liverpool man to press on forward, without it being a straight fight between him and Rice for the deeper midfield position. Rice’s main competition might be Tottenham Hotspur’s Eric Dier, but the 20-year-old has been far more impressive than his Spurs counterpart this season. Higginbotham is right, though, with the pace in this England team Rice’s forward-thinking could be pivotal. If he can win the ball back and quickly set Raheem Sterling or Jadon Sancho loose it will spell trouble for Czech Republic. Hopefully we get the chance to see that materialise on Friday.