“Declan Rice is one who may play – he’s in the squad. He’s great. He’s done very well for the U23s. He has a bright future,”
Slaven Bilic filled Hammer ears with hope and anticipation with one single sentence. The cries to play the youth team that just stunned a favorited Newcastle U23 team have been ringing around social media. Sadly, as good as Declan Rice has been, it’s likely he sees the bench for the majority of the match against Burnley this Sunday.
Slaven and West Ham United have been hesitant all year to start their youth players. In fact, they’ve been content to send some of the more seasoned youth players such as Ashley Fletcher and Edimilson Fernandes to play with the U23s. When Angelo Ogbonna went down for the year with a debilitating knee injury and required surgery, it wasn’t Reece Oxford who got the call, he was shipped off to Reading. Instead, veteran Jose Fonte was brought in on the closing days of the January transfer window to fill the void.
All season long Bilic and the board of David Gold, David Sullivan, and Karren Brady, have preached the mantra of ‘safety first’. Every decision was not so much a gamble, but a sure investment that will absolutely see a return. There is no reason to think that attitude will change when looking at Sunday’s match. Especially with £11m pounds on the line.
It all gets a bit murky but as you can see, there’s a vast difference between an 11th place finish and a 16th. Expect a very similar, bland, lineup that was strung out against Liverpool, with the main changes coming in the form of Sofiane Feghouli and Robert Snodgrass. Hopefully, West Ham United can find the motivation this time around and do what few teams have done at Turf Moor; find three points.