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I’m a former West Ham coach who helped discover Declan Rice.. it was obvious he was destined for big things

WEST HAM will always be heavily indebted to Liam Manning because of his leading role in Declan Rice’s development.

As Hammers’ Under-23 head coach, Manning helped to keep a teenage Rice on track when he struggled to make the grade after leaving school.

Declan Rice showed promise as a youngster at West Ham

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Declan Rice showed promise as a youngster at West HamCredit: Rex
Liam Manning will bring his Bristol City time to East London

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Liam Manning will bring his Bristol City time to East LondonCredit: Getty

He also rallied the future England star when Manuel Pellegrini suddenly axed Rice from West Ham’s first team.

Bristol City boss Manning takes the Championship side to West Ham today, relieved Rice is longer pulling the midfield strings after his British record £105million summer move to Arsenal.

But the 38-year-old is fully aware of the legacy Rice left at their former club.

He said: “Dec was an Under-17 when I joined in 2015, going from schoolboy to a scholar.

“He was the only one in his group that hadn’t been given a pro contract.

“His reaction summed him up — he kept his head down and grafted harder than ever. He was captain of the youth team and the best player every week.”

Manning saw Rice flourish as a centre-back and central midfielder who forced his way into the first team.

He made his Premier League debut at Burnley in May 2017, a few days after leading West Ham’s youngsters to victory over Newcastle in a Premier League 2 promotion play-off final at St James’ Park.

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But he came crashing down to earth following a 4-0 defeat at Liverpool on opening day of the 2018-19 season.

Pellegrini subbed him at half-time, axed him from the first-team squad and told him to train with Manning.

That is when Manning knew Rice was destined for great things.

He recalled: “Dec was the first one out, brought the balls out and was the best player in training. He collected the equipment at the end and went to do a player appearance when he could have been annoyed at not being selected.

“It summed up how much he loves football and was developing into a top professional.

“What struck me was his reading of the game and how cleanly he did the simple things.

“It wasn’t always about ‘Wow!’ moments but constantly making the right decisions and executing them to the highest level.”

Even without Rice, Manning is aware of the threat City face at the London Stadium.

Manning added: “The fact they will be formidable opponents is largely down to David Moyes, who I briefly crossed paths with in my days at West Ham.

“You have to admire and respect what he’s achieved and the longevity of his career.”

While Rice’s attention will be focused on Arsenal’s tie with Liverpool today, Manning insists he still epitomises everything that is good about West Ham’s ‘academy of football’.

He added: “Dec is a player West Ham should be really proud of.

“There was a very strong relationship between him and the fans, which is why Dec possibly stayed longer than other players might have.

“I don’t like talking too often about people I’ve worked with. Players make players and I think us coaches support, facilitate and nudge them.

“Ultimately, the person that deserves all the credit for Dec’s career is him — not any coach he has worked with.”

Rice, 24, will be in action for Arsenal against Liverpool today

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Rice, 24, will be in action for Arsenal against Liverpool todayCredit: Getty

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