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Declan Rice: back to where it all began

On a grey May afternoon, the anticipation was building at Dickerage Sports and Community Centre in Kingston upon Thames as a crowd awaited a former local boy who spent much of his childhood here: the Arsenal and England footballer Declan Rice.

The youngsters were more excited than when the King visited last year. Many clutched copies of Declan’s book on starting out in football.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here to open a new pitch he helped fund, he arrived flanked by security guards, surrounded by cameras and was clearly moved by the reception. There were hugs with Dan and Alison who run the centre and remember him as a boy.

Declan told ITV: “I spent a massive part of my life here. I’ve been coming here since I was two years old. Walking in today and seeing the people turn out is so special. I was here four or five nights a week. My mum couldn’t even get me home. I was addicted to the place. It played a massive part in where I am today.”

He spent two hours playing a series of matches with children on the new pitch.

Football stars are not universally well regarded, but this one is a credit to his profession. One girl seemed to find the occasion too much but the tears stopped after a personal coaching session.

Declan ended the day by spending another two hours being photographed with every child that came that day. What a star.

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