Life is sweet for Declan Rice.
The teenager ended the season as West Ham regular and has just starred for the Republic of Ireland in a 2-1 winner over the United States, his third senior international cap at the age of only 19.
However, things didn’t look quite so positive back in August 2017.
Having played well on his first ever Premier League start at Southampton, it was a different matter when he came to St James Park.
Declan Rice had done well at St Mary’s despite West Ham losing 3-2, playing the first 76 minutes and leaving the pitch with the score at 2-2.
However, a week later at St James Park he got a big wake up call.
After losing their opening two matches, Newcastle took West Ham apart, Hayden and Merino completely dominated Mark Noble and Declan Rice in the centre of midfield.
After wasting a number of chances, Newcastle got their breakthrough goal, the first of the season, on 36 minutes. Matt Ritchie catching Declan Rice in possession and within seconds the ball was in the back of the net.
Ritchie feeding Perez, who then passed to Merino, on to Atsu, before sliding across for Joselu to finish, despite Rice’s despairing late challenge (he is no.41 in the photo above).
Declan Rice was hauled off at half-time, although it made little difference to the game, Newcastle going on to win 3-0 with further goals from Clark and Mitrovic.
However, Rice says that game did, in retrospect, do a lot for him personally, a big wake-up call for what was needed in the Premier League:
Declan Rice speaking to the official West Ham site:
“That day [at St James Park] was tough for me.
“I gave the ball away and got pulled off at half-time.
“But I have got a strong mentality and I try to play the ball as much as I can.
“I have come on leaps and bounds since then.
“It was a good thing it happened…on reflection.
“If you are not making mistakes then you are not learning.
“I didn’t want it to happen, of course, but it’s all part of making yourself a top player.
“I would never have thought at the start of the season I would go on to play this many games.
“That is down to the managers believing in me and also my team-mates, giving me the ball and letting me express myself.”