DECLAN RICE PENS A LENGTHY PERSONAL MESSAGE TO WEST HAM FANS AHEAD OF HIS MOVE TO ARSENAL. West Ham have now confirmed that their captain has left for a British record transfer fee, eclipsing the £100m Manchester City paid for Jack Grealish in 2021. Declan Rice has expressed his gratitude to West Ham fans in a lengthy farewell message following his record-breaking move to Arsenal.
“I wanted to speak to you personally and directly, from the heart, to share my thoughts now that my departure from West Ham United has been confirmed. Reads the statement.
The last few days and weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of emotion, but it is important to me that I have the opportunity to say goodbye and reflect on what has been such a special and memorable part of my life.
Where do I start? I guess at the very beginning, in the spring of 2013, when I travelled all the way from my home in southwest London to Essex for a trial with West Ham at the age of 14, not really knowing what to expect, or whether it was a good idea to consider the possibility of playing for a club miles away from my family and where I had grown up.
However, I knew from the very first moment I walked into Chadwell Heath that I had found another place I could call home. It’s difficult to explain the feeling – I can only describe it as a sense of comfort and familiarity, almost as though it had been waiting for me. I fitted in straight away and realised just what a special club I had joined.
My days staying at the Academy club house in Romford bring back some of the happiest memories of my life. Sharing digs with lads on the same journey at that age was such a positive influence on my development. I found my voice, my confidence, my sense of humour – and built friendships that will last forever.
The ladies who supervised the house, Caroline and Jackie, looked after us like second mums, and then we had the likes of Tony Falco and the late Dennis Lepine, who not only drove us to the training ground in the minibus every day, but would happily pick us up at any time of the night or day if ever needed.
The environment at Chadwell Heath is something truly special. Even after becoming a first-team player, I still loved going back, just to pop in for a cup of tea and a chat with the staff or the boys coming through. As many have said, the Academy at West Ham doesn’t just make good players, it also makes good people.
I look back now and realise how crucial my time at Chadwell Heath was in shaping me, as a footballer and as a man. As someone who had some setbacks early on in my football career, it could have easily gone another way, but I found the perfect place to build my confidence, enabling my focus, determination and ambition to flourish.
It seems crazy to think that it’s now more than six years since I made my first-team debut, as a substitute in the last couple of minutes of the final game of the season, away at Burnley. I came home on the train with my mum and dad that day, buzzing at having played in the Premier League for the first time – but I could never have imagined how things would go from there.
So many great memories and highlights – my first goal for the Club two days before my 20th birthday, finishing in the top six of the Premier League, winning the Hammer of the Year award three times, the magical European nights under the lights at London Stadium – and all topped off by the way last season ended.
Although our Premier League campaign didn’t pan out the way we hoped, the team showed great character and determination to get ourselves out of a tough position and finish strongly. The Under-18s then gave everyone at the Club a massive lift by winning the FA Youth Cup and League double – which set the tone for what was to follow …
The celebrations in the dressing-room after Pablo’s last-minute goal away at Alkmaar were unforgettable – especially after the disappointment in Frankfurt a year earlier. I wasn’t sure anything could better the scenes in Alkmaar, but we managed to take it to another level in Prague.
To have followed Bobby Moore and Billy Bonds, becoming only the third captain in the Club’s history to lift a major trophy, is something that means so much to me. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment – not only from the players, but from everyone connected to the club. I was genuinely lost for words when the final whistle blew. It was such an emotional release, having built up over so many years.
There are so many people I have to thank for playing part in my development and journey at West Ham – members of the board, coaches, staff, colleagues and friends who have always been there for me. Too many to list here, but they all know who they are, and I will never forget any of them.
Special mention must go to the coaches, managers and key figures who have had a direct influence on my progress as a player, and have helped me to get to where I am today. Dave Hunt, the scout who brought me to West Ham. Tony Carr, Paul Heffer, Terry Westley, Steve Potts, Liam Manning, Mark Phillips – who, along with the staff at Chadwell Heath, all helped steer my path through the Academy – Slaven Bilić, who gave me my senior debut. Manuel Pellegrini, who kept his faith in me when I thought I might need to go out on loan to further my career, and David Moyes, who trusted me to be his captain and taught me the value of never, ever letting standards drop.
The fantastic team-mates and players that I have been privileged to play alongside. All have been great friends and some like brothers to me. So many great memories, laughs and brilliant stories. I can honestly say the group we have had here in the past two to three seasons is one of the best set of lads I have ever known, and such a big factor in the success we enjoyed this year.
And, of course, Mr West Ham himself, Nobes. What a man. I couldn’t have asked for a better captain to play under when I started out, nor a better person to learn from in the years that followed. He has taught me so much – about the game, about leadership, about life. He is the heart and soul of West Ham United and I count myself so lucky to call him a great friend.
Finally, my last thank-you must go to you, the supporters. The loyal, passionate, devoted, at times hilarious, and always honest Hammers, who are massive everywhere you go…!
You have taken me into your hearts as one of your own from day one. Even when it was just a handful of fans at the Under-18 or Under-23 games, I felt that love, and it has just grown stronger as the years have passed. Playing in front of you has been an honour, we have had such great times together, and you all mean so much to me.
I want you to know how tough a decision it has been for me to leave an environment that I have loved and cherished so much. Ultimately, though, it has only ever been about my ambition to play at the very highest level of the game.
Playing on the opposite team to West Ham for the first time will be an unusual experience. I’m not sure yet exactly how I will feel, but I also know you will all understand and respect that my professional loyalties have to now lie with my new Club. I will always give 100% every single time I pull on the shirt – because that is how I have been brought up at West Ham, and I’m sure you wouldn’t expect anything else.
However, that does not mean my love and respect for you all has been diminished in any way. This Club and its supporters will always be in my heart, and forever a part of who I am. What we shared together in Prague last month, and in the celebrations that followed at Upton Park and Stratford the next day, will never, ever be forgotten. The first major trophy of my career is something that means so, so much to me.
If there is one thing I have learned in my career so far, it’s that there are no guarantees in football. All you can do is work as hard as possible, try to be the best person you can be, and try to take the opportunities that present themselves. If you are lucky, you make some good memories along the way… and I have made so many at West Ham United.
“Thank you to everyone here who has contributed to my journey along the way. “