The Hammers skipper claimed he would be “surprised” if the 19-year-old “sleeps tonight” after his marked his birthday with the winning goal, his first for the club.
Speaking in the immediate aftermath of the match on Sky Sports’ live coverage with Rice stood alongside him, Noble said: “I am delighted for this young man to score the goal. You could hear it from the fans as well. It has been a special six months for Declan, after signing his new deal with the club.
“I would be surprised if he sleeps tonight. He is a special talent and keeps working hard. If any young footballers across the country need someone to look up to, Declan’s your man.”
It was difficult to watch Rice wreathed in smiles while giving a post-match interview alongside Noble and not smiling yourself. The rising star of the Premier League was a picture of unadulterated pride and joy, as he reflected on his first goal for the club he has represented so impressively since making his breakthrough into the first team. Rice must now be one of the first names on the team sheet at West Ham. He has made the midfield anchorman spot his own this season after being pushed forward into a new role by Manuel Pellegrini. The teenager, who turns 20 in two days, has been hugely impressive with his composure, interceptions and ability to protect the defence. Rice has now started 18 consecutive league matches for the Hammers, and played the full 90 minutes in each of them. As well as being a wonderful young talent, he is a durable one. West Ham are lucky to have him and, judging by his non-stop grin, Rice feels pretty fortunate, too.