It's a topic that's definitely sparked a lot of debate within the West Ham fan base; Will you clap Rice? Will you boo him? Or do you really care? After West Ham's thumping of Arsenal in the Last 16 of the Carabao Cup, Declan Rice certainly received a mixed reception on his first return to the London Stadium after leaving for London rivals Arsenal. But, were the boos justified?
One of the most exciting prospects about playing Arsenal in the cup for West Ham fans was to see Declan Rice again, only this time, he would play for the opposing team. As a West Ham season ticket holder, I was excited to see him at the London Stadium again, and I knew that I would clap for him. Half the ground had the same idea. When we saw him warm up on the touchline around the 25th minute, this was our first indication of what the reception would be like. Few claps, few boos, with Rice applauding back at the fans. It wasn't until the 57th minute, when he was substituted on, when we saw the feelings of all the fans.
From where I was sitting, it looked as if everyone, including myself, was on their feet applauding Rice as he was running on the pitch. Although, there was an audible booing sound around the ground, that was as loud as the applause. It was almost as if the ground was split in 2 sounds. But after everything the former hammer captain had done for the club, why was he boo'd?
It was clear that Rice wanted the move for ambition. He wanted to win trophies. So, when he was given the chance to join Arsenal AND Manchester City, you could say that West Ham fans were baffled when he joined Arsenal; a team that haven't won a European trophy since 1994, and haven't won the premier league since 2004. There was also some anger there because he joined another rival London club. Sure, you could say he joined the club because of their project, and their exciting future, but doesn't Man City have the same if not more potential? This is also a club that cannot stop winning the Premier League, having won the league 5 times in the last 6 seasons, as well as just coming off the back of a champions league final win.
That can explain some of the hatred towards Rice from hammers fans.
So you might be wondering why myself and most of the ground applauded him. Despite the fact of his move across London, which may have angered us, we feel his achievements for the club outweigh this. he first captained the side in 2019, and became a regular with the armband as noble reached the end of his career. He was captain for most of the 20/21 and 21/22 season, and was made permanent captain in 22/23. During these seasons, we finished, 6th, 7th, and won the conference league, respectively. he led us to 2 top 7 finishes, a club record of most points achieved a season in 20/21, our first major European final in 47 years, and 3 consecutive seasons of European football, thanks to those end of season positions and our conference league win.
He led one of the best West Ham teams in recent history. Even for West Ham, finishing in the top half of the table was an achievement, but for Rice to lead us to finishing 6th and 7th, was unbelievable to watch. It also goes without saying how euphoric the conference league final was, and how fitting it was to see our boy lift that trophy.
So for me, this is why myself and most other fans applauded him. He made West Ham a joy to watch, which was rare.