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English Talent: Reece Oxford

West Ham United’s Reece Oxford, who has just signed a loan deal with Borussia Monchengladbach, is this week’s featured player for English Talent. Remarkably, despite breaking onto the scene over two years ago, Oxford is still only 18-years-old. This article will inform you of his career so far, and his future potential.

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Oxford representing England at youth level (Getty Images)

Youth and Club Career

Oxford was a huge Arsenal fan growing up, but the defender actually started his youth career with North London rivals, Tottenham. However, his spell with the club was short-lived, as Oxford was released in 2011 shortly after joining. Yes, Spurs fans – your team released him.

West Ham soon snapped up Oxford following his release from Spurs, and he has since progressed very nicely through the Hammers youth ranks.

The 2014-15 season was when Oxford really emerged on the scene. At just 15-years-old, the youngster captained the West Ham Under-21s side on several occasions, despite being the youngest member of the squad. The youngster also found himself drafted onto the senior team bench for a League Cup game against Sheffield United, but unfortunately remained as an unused substitute. This was still a great sign of belief in Oxford from West Ham, though.

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A youthful-looking Oxford awaiting his first-team debut (Daily Mail)

As the season progressed, interest in Oxford increased dramatically, with Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United all believed to have sent scouts to watch the centre-half play. On the back of the speculation, West Ham Joint-Chairman David Sullivan said, “It almost makes you give up on having an academy if they can come in and nick your best 15-year-old. What’s the point?” Fortunately for the Irons, despite Oxford receiving offers from some of these so-called ‘bigger clubs’, he signed a professional contract with the East Londoners.

Following the young man showing his commitment to the club by signing a contract, Sam Allardyce gave Oxford an opportunity to train with the first team. This was followed by a number of appearances on the Hammers’ bench – but he still failed to make a first-team appearance. However, come the end of the season Oxford was rewarded for his fine performances in the youth sides, as he was awarded the Dylan Tombides Academy Player of the Year Award at the club’s player awards night.

Once Slaven Bilic joined the club in the summer of 2015, everything changed for the young defender. Oxford was named in the starting lineup for the new manager’s first game, starting in midfield in a UEFA Europa League qualifier against FC Lusitanos – believe it or not, I was actually there. This meant Oxford had become West Ham’s youngest ever player. During the game, he looked composed on the ball, playing in a deep-lying midfield role. In the second half, he was switched to centre-back, where he again looked incredibly calm on the ball, but was also dominant in the air and cut out any potential danger on the floor.

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Oxford becoming West Ham’s youngest ever player (Reuters)

Following his first appearance in the senior side, Oxford was then handed his Premier League debut away at Arsenal – his boyhood club, if you remember. He was given the demanding task of man marking the excellent Mesut Ozil, who on his day could trouble any experienced midfielder. However, Oxford played astonishingly well for a kid of just 16, keeping Ozil quiet for the vast majority of the game, in which the Hammers ran out 2-0 victors.

Given his performance against Arsenal, here is a rather amusing tweet Oxford sent out in 2013:

Since his first appearance, Oxford’s first team career has faltered slightly, if you can say 7 appearances for a Premier League side by the age of 18 is faltering, anyway. At the end of 2016, he signed a four-and-a-half year deal with West Ham, showing further commitment to the club. In January 2017, Oxford was sent out on loan to Championship side Reading, where he was hoping to cement a place in the starting lineup and get some game time. Rather disappointingly, he only made 5 appearances for the club. The youngster admitted that he was slightly out of his comfort zone, having never been out on loan before.

Oxford has recently been sent out on loan again, but this time in a rather interesting move to German outfit Borussia Monchengladbach. This could prove to be an excellent move for the young man. Typically, German sides give young players a chance, and given Oxford’s undoubted potential, he will surely be given plenty of game time. Another reason as to why this should be a good move is, in the Bundesliga, teams tend to play very good football; they work the ball out from the back, which suits Oxford perfectly. Here’s hoping he has a fruitful loan spell with the club.

England Youths

Oxford has represented England youths at every level, apart from the Under-21s side. Being a defensive player, there is nothing really of note in the youngster’s international career, given offensive players predominantly receive most of the glory at youth level. He did captain his country at the 2015 UEFA European Under-17 Championships, where the team reached the quarter-finals – how very English of them. In a play-off qualifier for the 2015 Under-17 World Cup, Oxford scored a vital penalty in a shoot-out, to help send the Young Lions through. West Ham denied Oxford permission to go to the tournament, though, given that it was set to take place in October and November. Since then, he has continued to impress through the youth ranks.

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Oxford captaining England Under-17s (Daily Mail)

Style of Play

By trade, Oxford is a centre-back – but he can play in a variety of positions. As previously mentioned, his first start for the club was in central midfield, before being reverted back into centre-half. Given his speed across the ground, Oxford can also be employed as a right-back but is much more comfortable in a central role.

The young starlet has many strengths, the main being his composure on the ball and ability to play out of defence. This is also accompanied by his hard-working attitude and love for a challenge – something all good defenders need. Standing at 6ft3 at just 18-years-old, his aerial ability is getting better with experience, and should only improve as his development continues. Oxford’s mental side of the game deserves recognition, given the confidence he possesses, which he showed against Arsenal, for example.

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Oxford playing against his boyhood club (EMPICS Sport)

There haven’t been too many comparisons been drawn to Oxford, and there is one main reason for that – just about everyone that has seen him play, has likened him to a young Rio Ferdinand. Obviously, he has a long way to go before he reaches anywhere near the level Ferdinand went on to achieve – but the pair do have many similarities in their playing style. This may be a rather bold statement, but Oxford could even surpass the levels Ferdinand rose to, with his ball-playing ability surely becoming a crucial aspect of the modern game.

If you wish to see more of Oxford, here is a short video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5k_vtu3Uno

Potential

Oxford is widely regarded as one of England’s best defensive talents. The only thing that can stop this young man rising to the very top is a lack of first-team chances going forward – but he will surely be granted plenty of those before too long. His upcoming loan spell with Borussia Monchengladbach will be a huge challenge for Oxford – but the experience will be invaluable. There is no doubt in my mind that Oxford, over the coming years, will cement himself as a Premier League star, and nail down a role in central defence. In the future, many big clubs will likely be chasing the defender, and will no doubt attract a huge transfer fee.

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Future Premier League Star (Getty Images)

In terms of England, given a lack of top-class defensive options at centre-half over the last few years, Oxford will surely become a regular international in the future. I am going to throw out another bold suggestion here, and say that, with the composure and mentality Oxford possesses, he will captain England one day. Watch this space.

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