West Ham United: Missing out on Europe would be a failure, says Declan Rice

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Declan Rice made 34 Premier League appearances for West Ham last season and made his England debut against the Czech Republic at Wembley in March

West Ham United must be challenging for European football this coming season, according to midfielder Declan Rice.

The Hammers finished 10th in manager Manuel Pellegrini’s first year in charge, five points off seventh place, but their sights are higher.

They begin their new campaign by playing champions Manchester City at home on 10 August.

“We have to be aiming for Europe with the squad we have now,” Rice told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Football Daily Podcast.

“Anything below that is a failure and most of the players would say that.

“We finished 10th, but we had so many chances to finish seventh. We have to improve our away form and our consistency.”

West Ham lost their first four games under Pellegrini before a total of 27 points from their next 15 matches put them in a position to kick on at the season’s halfway point. But they were erratic in 2019 – winning as many matches as they lost.

Pellegrini has brought in four players so far this summer including French striker Sebastien Haller, a club record £45m from Eintracht Frankfurt, and Spanish midfielder Pablo Fornals for £24m from Villarreal.

“West Ham deserves to be a big team,” said Pellegrini. “We have so many fans and we are so popular in London.

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“We are trying to improve one step more and we are all working together for that.”

From possible Championship loan to England starter

Rice (here with Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino) was substituted at half time as West Ham lost 4-0 at Anfield on the opening day of last season

Rice, a West Ham academy graduate, established himself as a first-team regular last season and ended the year in Gareth Southgate’s England team, having changed his international allegiance after winning three caps for the Republic of Ireland.

It is a far cry from the opening day of last season, when he taken off at half-time as the Hammers were thrashed 4-0 by Liverpool, and did not play again in the league until the 3-1 victory at Everton more than a month later.

“I was in a horrible place flying home,” the 20-year-old said. “We had been blitzed and I was dragged off at half-time.

“I played badly and was thinking I was not ready for the Premier League. There were a lot of Championship clubs interested in taking me out on loan.

“But the manager said I was not going anywhere and that I would play. I got my chance again at Everton. I took it and I have not looked back.

“If you had said to me then I would have played three times for England, played nearly every game, won man-of-the-match awards and club awards, I would have said no chance.

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“I am really happy thinking about it, but I know I have to build on that this season.”

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