Declan Rice: England boss Gareth Southgate HITS OUT at criticism of West Ham star | Football | Sport

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The West Ham player took advantage of the fact that none of his three Republic of Ireland caps have come in international matches to make a one-off switch with FIFA to make him eligible for the forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifying double-header against the Czech Republic and Montenegro.

The mood in Ireland has not been helped by the timing – his call-up comes just 24 hours after he was nominated the FAI young player of the year after a vote that took place before news of the switch emerged.

A number of Irish internationals have lined up to condemn the decision of the London-born teenager, whose grandparents are from Cork.

But Southgate hit back: “I think it’s easy to be vocal when you haven’t walked in those shoes. I think he spoke really eloquently about being somebody of dual heritage and what that means.

“For me it was easy, I could only play for England, so there was no question in my mind, and for lots of people that commented, that was the same.

“There were others who have commented despite the fact that they didn’t play for the country of their birth, so they’ve benefited from some of the rules that are there.

“Fundamentally, in this actual instance, he’s a boy that was born in London and educated at an English academy. So, I don’t think there’s too much that he needs to defend, but I understand the fact that there was a senior cap with Ireland, so that was always going to make it more complicated.”

Southgate is adamant he has made no promises to Rice in return for the 18-year-old pledging his international future to England.

While the England manager admits he would not have begun making overtures nine months ago if he did not thing Rice had a big future with the Three Lions, Rice will have to earn his place in the team the same as anybody else.

“We’ve tracked him for quite a while,” Southgate said. “I think they are really big decisions when you are asking a player to transfers associations. You have to be very clear that you feel they have a future with you.

“That said, there were never any guarantees made to him. Because I think that was also important. You’ve got to be playing well to get in the squad.

“What we’ve seen throughout has been an impressive character, a young man that shows tremendous leadership and responsibility.

“So, those sorts of personalities, of which we have quite a few in our squad, they tend to go and achieve a lot more than others might.

“You can talk about talent a lot, but in the end, mentality determines how far players go. What I like about our squad is that a lot of players have the mentality that they want to be amongst the best players in the world. That’s why we have a chance to progress and improve as a team. So how far a player can go is entirely up to them.”

The mentality of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is less clear-cut, however, having been called into question after a series of mistakes in the recent Everton defeat to Newcastle, where he was spotted sticking his tongue out – behaviour labelled “bizarre” and “ridiculous” by former England captain Alan Shearer.

Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton is back in the squad having recovered from a shoulder injury and Southgate said he would be talking to Pickford together with the England goalkeeper coach Martyn Margetson before deciding on his no. 1.

“I’m never keen to say that this player is the no. 1, and that’s it, because you’ve always got to have competition for places,” he said.

“We’re pleased with what Jordan’s done and we’ve got to help him through what was hopefully a blip at the weekend. Like everybody else, he has to train well and perform well.”



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