The WEST HAM and ENGLAND defensive midfielder chats to MATCH about his rapid rise to stardom over the past couple of seasons!

BREAKING THROUGH!

DECLAN SAYS: “I have been lucky enough to have managers who have put their trust in me, along with my team-mates too. Being the youngest player in the squad and playing week in week out, they’ve all given me the confidence to go out there and perform to the level that I have done.”

DEVELOPING HIS GAME!

DECLAN SAYS: “I’m fortunate that I can play at centre-back as well, and that’s helped me a lot. When I first broke through, I was a centre-back under David Moyes, and then Manuel Pellegrini transformed my game and regular position – and now Gareth Southgate sees me as a defensive midfielder. You just have to work hard, keep thinking and do your best.”

EARLY SETBACKS!

DECLAN SAYS: “I was released by Chelsea when I was 14 and have had loads of setbacks along the way, but setbacks are things you have to cope with – and my mentality is now stronger because of them. I would say that one of the top things that has got me to where I am today is my mentality.”

WHIRLWIND 18 MONTHS!

DECLAN SAYS: “It’s been crazy! For me to think that I’d be playing as a regular for West Ham in the Premier League at just 19 and 20 years old, is something that I have to pinch myself about! It’s something that you have to take in your stride, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

BEST FOOTY SKILL!

DECLAN SAYS: “My reading of the game is one of my strengths. When I was growing up as a defender, I had to be able to read the game. Then, as I’ve stepped into midfield, I’ve taken that ability with me. Getting myself into a position where my defenders want me to be in, or to intercept a pass, is definitely one of my strong points.”

YOUNG ENGLISH FOOTBALLERS!

DECLAN SAYS: “There are a lot of top English players out there that maybe still haven’t had their chance yet, but I know they’ve got the quality to break through. I’m fortunate that all of my managers – Bilic, Moyes and Pellegrini – have all seen the qualities that I’ve got and have trusted me to play.”

THREE LIONS SPIRIT!

DECLAN SAYS: “Gareth has really got the squad together. I felt comfortable the moment I walked through the door for my first England cap back in March, because all of the lads made me feel welcome. Everyone gets on and no-one is left out – they make you feel really comfortable, and I’m grateful for that.”

TRANSFER SPECULATION!

DECLAN SAYS: “Everything is good. I know there is speculation, but I signed a new five-year contract with the club so my focus is fully on playing for West Ham. I have a great connection with the supporters – they love me and I love them – and that’s the way it is! I’m not thinking of anything else!”

CAREER AIMS!

DECLAN SAYS: “When you start out in football, you always want to play at the highest level and in the Champions League. If you’re in football and you don’t want to do that, then there’s no point in playing! The likes of Frenkie de Jong, who got his move to Barcelona, is a top player, and it’d be great to come up against players like him in the future.”