Speaking to ITV, as per the Daily Mirror, prior to the Three Lions’ 4-0 victory over Kosovo on Sunday, Keane laid into Rice, claiming he needs to improve his ‘positional play’ and that he’s ‘sloppy in possession’.
Murphy has fired back: “I do think he went over the top,” he told talkSPORT [18/11; 10:20]. “Declan’s a wonderful player. He’s 20-years-old. For the majority of the last season and a half he’s been their [West Ham’s] best player and has progressed more than anyone thought he would, very quickly.
“That suggests to me he does have football intelligence. He’s gonna have good and bad games, it’s inevitable at 20 years of age. I think it’s a little bit harsh. I do think his positional play is good, and I do think he spots danger and tracks runners very, very well. I think Declan’s got a super future ahead of him.”
Keane was far too harsh on Rice, there’s no doubt about that. As Murphy says, the youngster has been West Ham’s best player for the past 18 months and, while there are areas he needs to improve, there certainly aren’t as many as Keane claims. Elsewhere on talkSPORT Murphy mentioned that Keane is probably upset because of Rice’s infamous defection from the Republic of Ireland to England. The former Manchester United man isn’t someone to forgive and forget when it comes to his country, and he likely sees what Rice did as a betrayal. But for him to take out his anger on a 20-year-old man in such a way is quite embarrassing, to be honest. The statistics show that Rice is very good defensively, while his work in possession is far from sloppy. As per WhoScored.com, the Englishman is averaging 2.8 tackles, 2.2 interceptions and one clearance per game. He couldn’t routinely make interceptions if his positional play was poor, could he? Plus, his average pass success rate this season is 90.2%. Not exactly sloppy, is it?