‘I don’t think we could have played ANY worse:’ Declan Rice bemoans awful West Ham performance in opening day defeat by Newcastle… but star midfielder refuses to blame slump on sale of ‘best mate’ Grady Diangana
- West Ham United were beaten 2-0 on Saturday night by Newcastle United
- Hammers looked poor all over the pitch during defeat at the London Stadium
- Midfielder Declan Rice refused to blame showing on sale of Grady Diangana
- Diangana, to the despair of players, was sold to West Brom over the summer
It says everything about West Ham’s predicament that Mike Ashley turned up and found he was not the most unpopular owner in the directors’ box.
David Gold and David Sullivan are despised by Hammers fans, and there were protests on Saturday outside the London Stadium, but England midfielder Declan Rice isn’t hiding the players’ responsibility for a dreadful start to the season.
‘I don’t think we could have played any worse,’ said the 21-year-old. ‘There is no good time to be playing poorly in the Premier League. We found that out last season. We had a dip in form and found ourselves in the deep end. It’s not enjoyable.
Declan Rice admits West Ham players could not have played any worse against Newcastle
The midfielder reacts during his side’s 2-0 home defeat on the opening day of the season
‘Whether it was slack passing or rustiness in our touches, things didn’t happen. We didn’t create enough or stretch them.’
West Ham have lost their last five opening-day fixtures. The big worry for them now is what lies ahead as they get set to face Arsenal, Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool before the end of October.
Rice is clinging to the belief West Ham raise themselves for big games. They beat Manchester United last season and did the double over Chelsea, and Rice said the controversial sale of Grady Diangana to West Brom won’t be used as an excuse.
Karren Brady (top left), vice-chair of West Ham, watched along with West Ham co-owners David Sullivan (second top right) and David Gold (centre) as their side fell to pieces
MARK CLATTENBURG’S FIRST GOAL VERDICT
I saw Graeme Souness was adamant Callum Wilson’s opening goal for Newcastle should have been disallowed for dangerous play – but he is wrong.
From one angle, I understand what he is saying, Wilson’s boot is high, his studs are showing and it looks like he is head-on with West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
But the truest angle of the incident shows you that Wilson gets there in front of the keeper. The striker is entitled to go for that and Fabianski just isn’t quick enough.
You have to remember as well, the keeper is coming out with his fist, it is not a case of foot against head, like it would be elsewhere on the pitch.
‘That was done and dusted 10 days ago,’ he stressed.
‘I’m gutted to see him gone because he’s one of my best mates and I know what he could have done for this club, but none of that was in our minds against Newcastle. It’s sad but we move on from that.’
Manager David Moyes will be concerned about West Ham’s disjointed display.
They hit the woodwork and had a couple of penalty shouts, but Newcastle deserved the points.
The Scot is pressing the Hammers board for new recruits, though they could point out that expensive acquisitions Sebastien Haller, Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson are languishing on the bench.
‘We are short of numbers and competition, to be honest,’ said Moyes, who wants centre back James Tarkowski from Burnley.
‘If we get an injury or suspension, we would be short. We are trying to get players in. There is plenty being offered.’
West Ham’s pain was Newcastle’s gain. Manager Steve Bruce was delighted Ashley was there to see his summer investment in four signings pay off.
Striker Callum Wilson (£20million) opened the scoring after 56 minutes and another newbie, Jeff Hendrick, struck three minutes from the end.
Callum Wilson (left) struck on his Newcastle debut to give the Toon a 2-0 win in east London
‘He (Ashley) deserved to enjoy it. At the right time he flexed his muscles, the players are here and we’ve seen the benefit,’ said Bruce.
‘I tried to take Callum from Coventry years ago. There is something about the lad I enjoy watching. He moves well and is a goalscorer.’
Another signing, left back Jamal Lewis, tasted his first league win for a year having been relegated with Norwich. A slimmer Andy Carroll caught the eye in attack, and Tomas Soucek in the face in an early aerial tussle.
‘Andy needs a big pat on the back for the way he came back physically for the season,’ said Bruce. ‘He’s lost five kilos and worked on his fitness. He looked back to somewhere near where Andy Carroll can be.’
There is now competition to play alongside Wilson, who said of opening his account: ‘I hope it’s the first of many.’
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