Q&A with Declan Rice
Interview with England and West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice ahead of the game with Ukraine
Declan Rice sat down with us ahead of Sunday’s UEFA EURO 2024 qualifier with Ukraine to discuss a range of topics, including why he feels England are edging closer to winning a major trophy and being reunited with his good friend Andriy Yarmolenko at the weekend.
You can read more of the interview with Rice in the Ukraine matchday programme, which can be purchased and sent out to your home here.
The Ukraine game will be the first England match at Wembley since the World Cup, how will it feel to be back there?
“It will be really special to be back at Wembley. Obviously, the last game we played there was Germany and that was a really good performance from us. Obviously we drew in that game but the way we came back was really solid and strong and gave us a lot of belief going into the World Cup.
"But to kickstart our new year with a game at Wembley for a EURO qualifying campaign is really special and one that I'm looking forward to.”
There’s obviously a lot of emotion involved in Ukrainian football, there was a taste of that when Andriy Yarmolenko scored for West Ham against Villa and Sevilla. Are you looking forward to seeing him again?
“I’m really looking forward to seeing Yarmo again. Obviously, he lives out in Dubai now so a completely different life to when I've known him so I'm looking forward to having to catch-up with him, and seeing if he and his family are well.
“Of course, he was a really good friend of mine during his time at West Ham. It should be really nice to play on the same pitch as him again.”
Did he give you an indication of the situation and how Ukrainians were dealing with what was happening?
“It was a really tough one because we didn't want to talk too much about it. At the time, his family was stuck in an underground bunker in Ukraine. So, he was going through a really tough time.
“Obviously, we were there for support, but we didn't want to speak too much personally about it as obviously, that's personal to him.”
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Is there a feeling that this England team is getting closer, and it can get over the line to win something?
"Yeah, definitely. I think we've shown now over the last couple of years how good we are as a group. It's just adding that finishing touch to beat one of the big nations and come out on top to then be reigned as champions. That's what we're all aiming for as a group of players.”
When you’re in the early stages of the qualifiers like this, do you dare to look too far ahead and dream of what this team can achieve, if we qualify, in Germany?
“We can do great things with this team. Obviously, the first two games are really tough and obviously, it's really important that we get off to a good start. First of all, it's going to be really good to get back with the lads again and see each other. It's always a special time but the objective is to win the two big games that we've got and then kick on and see if we can qualify top of the group.”
Ukraine will be a tough opponent. We were in scintillating form when we last played them in the last EURO, what are your abiding memories of that game?
“I remember it. It was a massive game, one that the lads were really looking forward to. We got an early goal through Harry and then we really pushed on and went on to win the game really easily. It's one we're looking forward to, we know Ukraine are a top side, but we believe we have enough to put out a really good performance on Sunday.”
It’s been well documented that you had to fight for your career as a youngster, do you ever look back on that time and how far you’ve come?
“You only get one chance as a kid to become a footballer and there was nothing that was going to get in the way of me pursuing my dream. I knew I had to give it everything, I had to sacrifice a lot and obviously, now I'm really lucky to be able to do what I love.”
Would you like to add a message to the fans?
“Thank you for all your support during the World Cup. We've got a big qualifying campaign now, so get behind the team, be positive and hopefully we can push on more this year and in the EURO and lift the trophy.”
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