Declan Rice is hoping to toast to Euro glory with his very first pint of beer after overcoming the knee injury that threatened to rule him out for England this summer.
Gareth Southgate faces a number of tough decisions ahead of Sunday’s Group D opener against Croatia, but the 22-year-old is among those guaranteed a starting role.
Rice has become a key part of the England squad since changing allegiance from the Republic of Ireland, with whom he won the last of three senior caps in June 2018.
Later that month, the West Ham midfielder cheered on England in a giant fanzone in Dubai as they started their unforgettable journey to the World Cup semi-finals.
Videos of fans throwing beer in such venues went viral during the tournament, but Rice was never going to be among those tossing pints.
“Do you know what, to this day I have never drunk beer and I am 22 years old! It’s the truth,” he said with a smile. “I’ve never had a pint. Don’t drink it.
“Not really (a drinker). But a pint? No. I know it’s irrelevant but I’ve never had beer. People are surprised. I just don’t like the smell, so I don’t. never approached it. “
When asked if he would drink a beer if England won the Euro, Rice replied, “Yes. I’ll try, but I’ll probably spit it out!”
“Honestly, the World Cup was lively. I remember watching the Panama game, the Tunisia game, the Sweden game. It was amazing.
“The song before the game, the national anthem. Just being a part of it. I was a fan of this tournament, so to be a part of this tournament is amazing.”
Rice only made his way into the game with West Ham at the 2018 World Cup – a time when he says his decision to leave Ireland “was made”.
Now he is based in England in the brewing town of Burton with 19 caps under his belt and plays with his best friend Mason Mount.
“I was talking to Mase about this yesterday when we were given the legacy caps,” he said. “The trip we both took together. It’s amazing.
“We are 22 and set to represent our country at a major tournament. We both can’t wait for this to happen.
“Obviously, growing up watching England in tournaments as well, you just feel the appropriate buzz, the effects and the country’s desire for players to do well.
“It was like that, even in Dubai. There were thousands of English fans. See when (Kieran) Trippier scored, all the fanzones in England went crazy. That’s what I want to be a part of now.
“I can’t wait to experience this and get the real buzz and excitement of the tournament.”
Along with Rice’s enthusiasm comes an innate drive to improve, complemented by a professionalism that is a big part of why he’s never been a heavy drinker and will be fit for the Euro.
He feared missing out on the tournament, complaining about his “weird” and “unstable” knee after finishing the March World Cup qualification against Poland.
“I’m a little worried,” said Rice, who sent a post-game message to the West Ham doctor.
“He sent me for a scan and he came back when I was on my way home, when I got the call from the physiotherapist telling me that I had ruptured my LCL (lateral collateral ligament) and I I immediately asked how long it would take – am I going to miss the Euros? ‘,’ Am I going to miss the end of the season? ‘
“They said they couldn’t set a deadline. They said it could take 10 to 12 weeks and they weren’t sure if it required surgery.
“I think ‘oh.’ The first person I called was my dad, then (Mark) Noble, to say ‘I think I’m done.’ He always gives me good advice and calms me down.
“Once we saw the knee specialist he gave me the full belief that I could be back, then as soon as I started my rehabilitation it was six weeks, no days off, every days and I really broke everything.
“I was back in four weeks, it could have been three but I didn’t want to push, then I resumed training with the team but it was more on the fitness side.
“I got back on the road, then I played three games in seven days after six weeks of absence at the end of the season, so it was tough, but now my knee feels really good and strong.
“I did everything right, which gives me the best chance to perform.”