Who is Reece Oxford? We profile West Ham's youngest-ever Premier League player
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 10/08/15 12:56pm
Reece Oxford put in an assured display as he became West Ham's youngest Premier League player in their shock 2-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
The 16-year-old, who wasn't even born when new manager Slaven Bilic played for West Ham, started at the base of midfield for his league debut and impressed against the likes of Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil.
At 16 years and 237 days, Oxford became the second-youngest player to start a Premier League game and finished with the best pass percentage in the match of 95 per cent as West Ham chalked up a surprise victory.
It was enough to impress Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness, who said: “He was playing in a vital positon to protect the back four and did it impeccably. For a 16-year-old it borders on the ridiculous.”
Here, we take a closer look at the talented teenager.
Londoner Oxford is regarded as one of England’s brightest young talents and the best youngster to come through West Ham’s academy in recent years.
The 6ft 3ins centre-back has been likened to fellow Hammers academy graduate Rio Ferdinand and made his first-team debut in the Europa League in July.
As well as being comfortable in a more advanced role, Oxford is a ball-playing defender whose height and aerial strength makes him a weapon from set pieces.
He began training with West Ham’s first team last season and was an unused substitute for a Capital One Cup tie against Sheffield United at the age of just 15 in September. He also featured on the bench in a string of Premier League games towards the end of the campaign.
In May, Oxford won West Ham’s Dylan Tombides Academy Player of the Year Award for his performances in their U21 side. He also captained England at the European U17 Championship in Bulgaria, where they were knocked out at the quarter-final stage by Russia.
Oxford has attracted interest from a host of top Premier League clubs, with Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea all linked with the talented teenager last season.
Oxford’s contract was set to expire this summer, meaning West Ham could have lost him for a nominal fee, but he finally ended speculation surrounding his future when he signed a long-term contract at the club in January.
Oxford put pen to paper on the pitch at Upton Park at half-time of an FA Cup tie against Everton. “It's great to get the deal done and I'll try to kick on now and get into the first team,” he said at the time. “The fans are committed to me, they really wanted me to sign. They love their players here.”
What they say about him
Academy manager Terry Westley (ahead of his debut in the Europa League): "We will find out whether he can handle the pressure of the big situation, whether he is as good as we think he is. We won’t know that with him on the bench or in the stand. He has an opportunity and the talking has to stop.
"If he is going to be one of the best we have produced, he has to be some player, with (James) Tomkins here and then (Frank) Lampard, (Joe) Cole, (Rio) Ferdinand and the rest. Where he is at his age, he has done exactly what he needs to do."
Former manager Sam Allardyce (before Oxford signed his new contract): "The only thing we can hope for is that he enjoys being here and that he doesn’t get lured to a bigger club. I believe 100 per cent that his progression here would be far greater because he will be getting into our first team far, far quicker."
Co-chairman David Gold: "Reece Oxford is sixteen years old and a great prospect, his time will come... He will play for England, in my opinion."
Sky Sports commentator Niall Quinn (after Oxford's Premier League debut against Arsenal): "To say a star is born it’s absolutely true. The kid’s not only broken some phenomenal records and played the game, he was outstanding.
“I kept a real close eye on him, sometimes off the ball he’d turn around and give out instructions, pointing fingers, letting things develop.
“He had a maturity today which was so hard to understand because you think he’s going to be lost out there and that all the others players are going to have to rally round him and it was the exact opposite.”
What he says
“I've learnt so much about defending since I've trained with the first team,” he said in an interview with the FA’s website in May.
“Putting your body on the line and how to pick the right time coming out from the back - I'm being taught how to properly defend.“I like getting forward,” he added. “I feel like I'm stronger in the air than most lads and I like to use that on set-pieces.”