Ireland underage international Declan Rice was devastated when he was released by Chelsea but four years on he is rapidly turning into a Premier League star.
On Thursday teenage defender Rice helped nullify Harry Kane, Dele Alli and co as West Ham grabbed a valuable point in a 1-1 Premier League draw against Tottenham at Wembley.
And the 18-year-old admits he is now probably the envy of his former Blues academy team-mates as he establishes himself as a key member of the Hammers’ rearguard.
“I was released by Chelsea at 14 years old,” he recalled.
“I remember it, a Tuesday night. On the Wednesday I was training with Fulham, five minutes from my house, and then on the Thursday I was training with West Ham.
“After one session at both clubs they both wanted me. There was interest from other clubs as well but I made the switch to West Ham.
“I had to change house, change school, so it was a massive decision – and it’s paid off,” he continued.
“When Chelsea let me go it was really deflating. For me, as a youngster, it’s all I ever knew – living 10 minutes from the training ground, going to loads of the games.
“It’s one of those where you’ve just got to pick yourself up and go again.
“I think some of the boys at Chelsea might be thinking ‘wow! Look at Dec doing well for West Ham’.”
London-born Rice has been capped for Ireland at underage level, but has yet to play at senior level and already he has started to attract attention from the English FA following his recent performances.
Rice, who turns 19 next week, will be back in the starting line-up when the Hammers head to League One Shrewsbury in the FA Cup third round on Sunday.
Manager David Moyes has admitted he would sacrifice a run in the cup for Premier League survival, but Rice insists the two are not mutually exclusive.
“Football’s all about winning,” he added.
Massive Point Tonight, Boys Were Excellent, Delighted To Have Picked Up My First Man Of The Match Award🙌, Looking Forward To My First FA CUP Match Now❤⚒ #COYI
— DR (@_DeclanRice) January 4, 2018
“We’re doing well now in the Premier League. We’ve had some great results. But the FA Cup…it would be great if we could get towards the end and really push for it.
“Crystal Palace have got there before, to the final. Other clubs have done it, and if we ever won the FA Cup that would be massive for us, and for me.
“Winning my first big trophy with West Ham, that would be a real dream.”