Declan Rice has revealed Jose Mourinho’s barb about West Ham spurred the Hammers players on to victory in Sunday’s crucial London derby.
Goals from Michail Antonio and Jesse Lingard secured a 2-1 victory for the Irons, who showed tremendous resilience to hang on to all three points when Spurs searched for an equaliser after Lucas Moura pulled one back.
Previous West Ham teams over the years may have succumbed to the pressure, especially at the London Stadium against a side blessed with as much quality as their north London visitors.
However, David Moyes has instilled a gritty backbone during his second stint in Stratford, with perhaps no player epitomising this more succinctly than Rice himself.
The 22-year-old, who has held the captain’s armband in the absence of Mark Noble this season, was absolutely everywhere on Sunday afternoon. He won 100% of his aerial duels, made ten ball recoveries, achieved an 83% pass completion rate and his clearance in the second half to stop a certain goal from Dele Alli was exceptional.
Rice joined the talkSPORT Breakfast on Monday morning to discuss the implications of such a momentous derby victory and admitted comments made by Mourinho to the Tottenham YouTube channel about the Hammers’ lofty position backfired for ‘The Special One’.
He said: “I read during the week that Mourinho said that, at the end of the season, there would be no comparison between where Spurs are going to be compared to West Ham and that they were going to overtake us.
“You read stuff like that as players – I think he said it on the Spurs YouTube channel – you read that as players and you think, ‘Yeah that is going to make me go out there and prove you wrong’.
“You go out there and you want to put out an even better performance, so I think all the lads knew that. We wanted to go out there yesterday and really beat Spurs.”
The Hammers are now just four points off Manchester United in second place in the table, with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Leicester City still to visit the London Stadium.
If there was perhaps one criticism which could be aimed at Moyes and his high-flying Hammers team it would be that they failed to properly assert themselves against typical ‘Big 6’ sides.
Disappointing defeats at home and away to Liverpool do not reflect the hard work Moyes and the likes of Kevin Nolan and talkSPORT’s Stuart Pearce are doing at the club, while an early season collapse at Arsenal seems an awfully long time ago.
But Rice insists the victory over Spurs could well be a turning point for the East End side, who fear no team in the Premier League.
“Obviously we played them at the start of the season and we came back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3, and yesterday was another top result,” added Rice.
“But it’s a London derby; knowing that should be enough to get you up for anything.
“We are going out there now and we don’t fear anybody. I think maybe the West Ham of last season would have caved in in that second half and conceded goals.
“But now it’s completely different and now, like you say, we won’t cave in to anyone. We can score goals; we’ve got quality up there at the attacking end of the pitch as well. Long may it continue.”
While Moyes remained as stoic and humble as ever after the game when pressed on the club’s potential European ambitions, Rice is refreshingly open and honest about his dreams for the future.
Having established himself as a regular starter for England under Gareth Southgate, the former Chelsea academy starlet wants to test himself against the best players in Europe on a consistent basis.
DECLAN RICE STATS VS TOTTENHAM
The West Ham United midfielder is driving his team into European contention
- 100% aerial duels won
- 83% pass accuracy
- 10 ball recoveries
- 8 final third passes
- 4/5 tackles won
- 3 interceptions
- 3 clearances
And with a tough run of fixtures coming up for the club, West Ham’s reigning ‘Hammer of the Year’ is determined to remain in the Champions League places until the conclusion of this crazy, COVID-hampered season.
“100 per cent, definitely I think I would be wrong to sit here and say that’s not something I am thinking about,” he concluded.
“I want to be in those places now, this is where this club deserves to be. It is a massive club, we’ve got the quality like I said and that’s where we need to be pushing.
“I think the next four games are going to define that. We have got City, then Leeds, then United and Arsenal.
“Four massive games, so if we get through these with a good amount of points then who knows?
“We will be down to single figures then [in terms of remaining games], and we will be able to start counting down to see how long we have to go.”