Belfast Telegraph

Declan Rice feared England fan backlash over IRA message

Declan Rice in action for England during the Euro 2020 qualifying match against Czech Republic
Declan Rice in action for England during the Euro 2020 qualifying match against Czech Republic
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

Footballer Declan Rice has revealed he feared being booed by England fans on his debut because of a pro-IRA message he wrote on social media when he was 15.

The West Ham star's message was posted when he was a Republic of Ireland junior player, but it re-emerged 24 hours before last Friday's Euro 2020 qualifier against the Czech Republic.

The midfielder, now 20, who switched allegiance to the country of his birth, made his England debut as a substitute in the 5-0 win over the Czechs.

Despite issuing an apology for the old Instagram message - 'UP THE RA. Wait Till We Draw England' - and stressing that it didn't represent his views, the player admitted he was worried it would he held against him. "I thought there was maybe going to be some booing," he told The Telegraph.

"I didn't know how the fans would take to me. But the reception from the England fans has been top class. They have taken me in. To get the claps at the end, and coming on at Wembley to a massive roar, I thank them very much because it gives me the confidence to perform.

"At Wembley with the stuff that happened the night before, you never know in football.

"I thought some people might not be happy. You never know, so to get the roar, to get the clapping now, I'm delighted."

"I didn't feel too bad (when the message came out) because, like I said in the statement, I was 15 years old. They aren't my beliefs at all.

"I was a kid. I've just kept a level head all week. I've tried to do what I've been doing at my club, go out and perform and put it behind me."

Meanwhile, James McClean has accused Rice, who appeared in three friendlies for the Republic in 2018, of using the team as a "stepping stone" to play for England. The Stoke winger also claimed that Rice showed the Republic a lack of respect.

McClean played under-21 football for Northern Ireland but opted to represent the Republic at senior level. He played alongside Rice until he switched allegiance.

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