Declan Rice has revealed how he almost left West Ham United for a loan move to Aston Villa at the beginning of last season.
The young midfielder suffered a crisis of confidence after the Hammers were blown away by Liverpool on the opening day of the Premier League, as he was substituted at half-time.
Manuel Pellegrini went on to drop the 20-year-old for the next three matches after that thrashing, and Rice admitted to FourFourTwo there was plenty of interest from the Championship.
“I wanted to go to Aston Villa under Steve Bruce,” he said.
“West Brom, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa wanted me. I was pushing for Villa the most. I remember speaking to the manager here, saying that I should go on loan.”
“He just laughed it off and said, ‘You’re not going on loan!’ He said, ‘You’re going to stay, and you’re going to play’. He told me that I had to get back into the team.”
Rice went on to feature in all but one of the 34 Premier League games after that and finished the season with three England caps to his name after impressing Gareth Southgate.
It appears as if Pellegrini handled this situation perfectly at the beginning of the last campaign. The Chilean would surely have been baffled when Rice suggested he should go out on loan, and simply gave him the confidence to push on and improve by rejecting his suggestion and telling him to crack on and earn his spot back. That little kick is sometimes all young players need, and it most likely made the 20-year-old sit back and make him put that extra little bit of effort in after that Liverpool game. The 20-year-old has to keep using that disappointment of being dropped before to keep on improving, and he has done just that this season. Rice has averaged an impressive 3.5 tackles on top of 2.3 interceptions per game according to WhoScored, which are currently the best stats of his career. Although being dropped and doubting your Hammers’ career doesn’t sound all good, it gave the England international a valuable lesson at the time and one that he took full advantage of, meaning he knows exactly how to tackle a poor run of form should it happen again.