David Moyes has called on West Ham fans to welcome Declan Rice back with open arms when Arsenal visit in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night, but joked: “I’m not sure I want him to play!”
The former Hammers captain left the club to join Arsenal in a £105million deal in the summer and Wednesday’s fourth-round tie will mark his first return to east London, assuming Mikel Arteta does not opt to rest the midfielder ahead of the weekend’s trip to Newcastle.
Rice walked away on a high after leading West Ham to their first major silverware in 43 years in last season’s Europa Conference League final in Prague, with Arteta suggesting that his first chance to play back at the London Stadium would be a “beautiful moment”.
Despite that trophy-winning legacy, however, not all Irons fans gave Rice’s departure their blessing, the Englishman having rejected several offers of a lucrative new contract and spoken openly about his desire to play Champions League football.
“I hope we’ll see Declan back,” Moyes said. “This is the man who lifted the first European trophy in 50 years at West Ham. He should be welcomed back with open arms.
“He was a brilliant member of the team and conducted himself impeccably as a West Ham captain. I’m really looking forward to seeing him. I’m not sure I want him to play! But I hope he is there.”
Meanwhile, Moyes urged patience over Mohammed Kudus’s role in the side after the Ghanaian was finally handed a first Premier League start in Sunday’s defeat by Everton.
The 23-year-old had impressed in a series of cameos and in the cup competitions prior to that meeting with the Toffees, but is now seeking to establish himself in Moyes’s first-choice side.
“It can take a few months for anybody to adapt, whether they’re doing well or not,” the Scot added. “I think Mo has settled in well though.
“He’s young and we’re not pushing too hard or asking for too much too soon. I think he could be a midfield player, but could also play off the right or up front for us. I think all those positions are important for us because it gives us a variation.”