Gareth Southgate’s side took a major stride towards qualifying for the European Championships next summer as Rice, 20, earned his fourth cap for the Three Lions since switching international allegiance from the Republic of Ireland earlier this year.
Ex-Ireland midfielder Keane has suggested that Rice needs to try and stick to his strengths rather than trying to play a role he is not quite used to just yet, but asserts that the West Ham midfielder is still only young.
“His strength at the moment is breaking things up where today he got quite a lot of possession and that’s probably not one of his strengths,” said Keane on ITV after the match on Saturday [7:06pm].
“But he is still learning, he’s 20 years of age. We’ve got to go easy on him and give him a chance to mature and learn the role.”
Keane is right about Rice being young. He only made his fourth appearance for England and because he has been a regular for West Ham for a couple of years now, people are going to assume that he is more experienced than he actually is. Rice has only made 65 Premier League appearances. It’s a lot for a young player but it still isn’t enough to suggest that the midfielder is anywhere near to being the finished product. Rice will keep improving and while he does not play in one of the most glamorous roles in football, fans need to accept that he is still at the bottom half of what is a big learning curve. It doesn’t help that Rice was playing in a game that did not really suit him. Bulgaria barely threatened the England goal and when they did push forward, Rice was there a lot to stop the attacks dead and move the ball on to another player. He will need to do that a lot more in games when England are playing against tough opposition.