Declan Rice has labelled criticism of England team-mate Mason Mount as “very harsh” after the Chelsea midfielder faced a social media backlash.
Mount was singled out during the last international break as many pundits and supporters clamoured for Jack Grealish to be more involved for England.
Despite the criticism, the 21-year-old has impressed for England and scored the winning goal in the Nations League victory over Belgium in October.
Sunday 15th November 7:00pm
Kick off 7:45pm
Gareth Southgate’s side head for the return tie in Leuven on Sunday – live on Sky Sports Premier League – and with Rice likely to be included alongside his close friend Mount, the West Ham man offered a staunch defence of his colleague.
“We don’t speak about it but I think it’s very harsh,” Rice said when asked about the negative social media surrounding Mount.
Declan Rice and Mount are childhood friends
“I witness it here, when I come to train here and I have trained with him since I was a kid.
“So I know what his mentality is like, I know how hard-working and how driven he is and it is no surprise you know that Gareth picks him, Frank (Lampard) picks him.
“I think if you give every Premier League manager the chance to pick him, they pick him as well because if you see day in, day out what he gives to the team as an individual, he’s a top talent – so I think that the criticism is very harsh.”
Southgate has insisted it has never been a straight shootout between Mount and Grealish for a place in his team and the pair started together in Thursday’s friendly win over the Republic of Ireland.