Mick McCarthy sees Declan Rice as international captain material
Irish manager says: ‘I’d like to build a team around him and he could be a future captain’
West Ham United’s Declan Rice and Watford’s Ken Sema battle for the ball during the Premier League match at the London Stadium. Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy has said he is pleased with the way his recent meeting with Declan Rice went but declined to make a firm prediction about the decision the 19 year-old will make regarding his international future.
Speaking on Sky Sports, McCarthy said that he could imagine Rice being a future captain of Ireland but suggested that situation simply remains that the London born teenager has to resolve whether he wants to continue playing for Ireland or not.
His public caution is at odds with the levels of confidence expressed by prominent figures within the FAI over the past week with more than one privately suggesting last week that the player’s decision had been made in the wake of his meeting with McCarthy and that an announcement is expected in the very near future.
“I had a really good meeting with him,” confirmed McCarthy. “There was myself, Robbie (Keane), Declan and his dad and it is just up to him what he wants to decide - that’s how I’ve left it.
“It’s not my decision as to whether he plays for the Republic of Ireland, it’s my job - if he decides that he wants to stay with us - to pick him. I think he’s a really talented player. I thought he was a lovely lad; he’s got a really nice family behind him and he has everything about him that makes you want him to play for you. That’s still my case, I want him to play for us.
“I’d love to build a team around him,” he continued. “We start in March and that’s my deadline I guess, I need to know by then. I’d like to build a team around him and he could be a future captain - he’s that type of player.”
McCarthy also confirmed his interest in sitting down with Patrick Bamford, the 25 year-old Leeds striker who started his career at Chelsea. “I have asked about him,” said the manager, “I’ve asked about lots of players like I normally do. But my intention is to speak to Patrick. He does qualify.
He’s a terrific goalscorer, Patrick. He’s played against my teams. He just puts the ball in the net and you can’t have enough of those.”
Bamford is currently returning from a three month lay-off due to injury. He joined Leeds in the summer after a solid rather than spectacular season at Middlesbrough where he had previously won a Championship Young Player of the Year award after scoring 17 times while on loan from Chelsea.
Michael Obafemi, meanwhile, became the youngest Republic of Ireland player to score in the Premier League when he came off the bench to get Southampton’s third in their win at Huddersfield on Saturday.
“This is a first step in my career,” he said afterwards. “I’ve come a long way since my debut against Tottenham (back in January) and I’m thankful for everyone who has believed in me and got me back into this position.”