Declan Rice has been named the Republic of Ireland’s young player of the year just a few weeks after announcing he was switching his international allegiance to England.
Despite claiming last summer that there was no chance of changing national teams after winning three caps for Ireland’s senior side, Rice decided he wanted to play for England.
The West Ham midfielder refused a call-up by former Ireland manager Martin O’Neill at the start of the Uefa Nations League campaign last August and continued to reject opportunities to make his competitive debut for a country he had represented in all age group levels up to and including the senior team.
Before he was sacked by the Football Association of Ireland in November, O’Neill had privately suspected the 20-year-old was merely trying to extract himself as softly as he could from the Ireland set-up, but refused to publicly challenge the player.
Although Rice’s family were keen for him to continuing playing for Ireland, it is understood others around him argued England was the better career path, particularly as he had been courted by manager Gareth Southgate.
Rice changed his agent over the summer and recently agreed a lucrative new contract with the Hammers to reward him for his rapid progress at club level.