‘It might be a bit of bitterness towards me’ - Declan Rice responds to criticism from James McClean

Former Ireland winger McClean had said on RTÉ that Rice is not a ‘world class’ midfielder

James McClean and Declan Rice in action for Ireland in 2018. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho

Former Republic of Ireland midfielder Declan Rice has responded to James McClean’s belief that he is not a “world class” midfielder comparable to Spain’s Rodri and Germany’s Toni Kroos.

Rice played three friendly matches for Ireland in 2018 against Turkey, France and the USA, each one alongside McClean before declaring for England, where he has since won 53 caps.

“Do you know what? I played with James for Ireland for three games and I got on with him really well,” said Rice before England’s final Pool C tie against Slovenia in Cologne. “I am not going to sit here and slag him off. I thought he was a really top guy.

“When I left Ireland to come to England, I heard a few things he was obviously not happy about. He made comments a few years ago.”


McClean’s most recent criticism of the Arsenal star was said in the RTÉ studio before England’s 1-1 draw with Denmark on June 20th.

“It is what it is,” Rice continued. “I am not going to sit here and say anything about him. He’s had a great career himself – I think he is coming to the end of his career now and he’s got over a hundred caps for Ireland.

“It would be easy for me to sit here and say something back to him but, like I said, we are at opposite ends of our careers now – he’s 35 and I’m 25.

“I’ve known him, I’ve played with him, he’s entitled to his opinion and I’ve had to fight a load of those opinions from other people before.”

When pressed, however, Rice added:

“It might be a bit of bitterness towards me not playing for Ireland but I’ve not got a bad word to say about him, to be honest. I see the comments but I don’t try to put too much energy into it.

“It is what it is and you move on. You live and learn.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent