With his international allegiance still technically up in the air, Declan Rice returned to first-team duty with West Ham United tonight for their League Cup clash with AFC Wimbledon. In Manuel Pellegrini's starting XI for the Hammers' opening game of the Premier League season against Liverpool, Rice was substituted at half-time in that 4-0 defeat.
Against Bournemouth and Arsenal, the three-capped Irish international did not feature again. Drafted back in for tonight's game, the response to Rice's return to the West Ham fold was not greeted by universal optimism from the club's fans initially.
Given that his potential decision to leave the Irish set-up for the chance of trying his luck with England, few appeared too hopeful that he should be expecting a call-up by Gareth Southgate anytime soon.
Declan Rice want to swap sides at half time? #WIMvWHU
— Steve Thorpe 💙 (@leccymansteve) August 28, 2018
Please stop playing Declan Rice in midfield!!
— RossoneriHammer (@RossoneriHammer) August 28, 2018
Why is Declan rice playing in the middle of the park
— GD (@_GeorgeDonovan) August 28, 2018
Declan Rice pudding wants to turn his back on Ireland to play for England, yea because your going to play for England 🤭
— John McGovern (@TheGoverner99) August 28, 2018
Declan Rice not exactly looking England Captain material
— Stevie McDonagh (@modernista48) August 28, 2018
However, still only 19-years-old, criticism of Declan Rice is perhaps a little too forthcoming.
Over the course of the game, as West Ham picked up a 3-1 win to mark the first high-point of the Pellegrini era, Rice became a target for much of the positives that the Hammers could take from tonight's game.
Declan Rice played brilliantly tonight hope to see him on Saturday
— Joe (@uglyhus) August 28, 2018
Brilliant mate he looks solid and maturing well 💪🏼⚒
— Sammy McNess ⚒ (@Sammcness) August 28, 2018
Declan Rice has been our best player going forward for fuck sake. Pathetic West Ham. Get Obiang off and get Antonio on. Inject some power into it
— Jack Lebeau (@JackLebeau66) August 28, 2018
@_DeclanRice is a top top player... he could be west hams midfield general
— Burtonbizzle (@burtonbizzle) August 28, 2018
the one thing thats crystal clear from this game is @_DeclanRice should be playing cb for us everyweek (had a great game tonight in cm) an absolute leader and commands everything (hopefully the bk line everyweek)⚒⚒⚒
— lee dickson (@leedickson9) August 28, 2018
Declan Rice has been quality again today #AFCWWHU
— Matt Blissett (@MattBlissett93) August 28, 2018
Declan Rice is easily one of west hams best players! Unreal player ⚒
— Liam ⚒ (@Taylor94Liam) August 28, 2018
Declan Rice is actually unreal
— West Ham Transfers (@westhamtransfer) August 28, 2018
Perhaps a little facetious, one fan was sure they'd spotted something worthwhile.
— Phillip Barlow 🇪🇺 (@hammerslibrary) August 28, 2018