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John Smith writes a detailed Scout Report about Reece Oxford, the West Ham United starlet who made his debut last season against Arsenal.
When it comes to the Premier League, it’s inevitable that more and more hungry academy players will look to steal the headlines and make their impact on first team football. Last season was no different, players such as: Alex Iwobi, Marcus Rashford, and Kelechi Iheanacho are all players to follow this trend on moving to the first team in quick succession and proving their worth to the club. However, although the light shines brightly for all of these individuals, one footballer who has appeared to be forgotten is none other than Reece Oxford.
Born and raised in Edmonton, London – Reece Oxford grew up as your average kid within the heart of London with football playing a major factor within his life. From a young age, Oxford was a professed fan of the London giants Arsenal Football Club. His dream of becoming a footballer began its story when he successfully earned himself a contract at Tottenham Hotspur at a very young age.
Unfortunately for the youngster, his tenure at Tottenham Hotspur was short lived as they rejected giving the then-11-year-old a new contract for the club and announced his release. After his departure, Oxford was soon signed up by rivals West Ham United and has been at the club ever since. The midfielder has been lucky enough thus far in his career to play for his home country – England – at a variety of different stages. Oxford has represented the Three Lions at: U16, U17, U18 and U19 levels for his country whilst securing 16 appearances for his country at the variety of stages and even scored once in the process.
The 2014/15 Premier League season was the initial season where Oxford successfully made a statement in regards to his teammates in the official first team. The then 15-year-old was seen training alongside the first team for a variety of games and was named as an unnamed substitute in the league cup versus Sheffield United as well as sporadically earning his place on the bench for Premier League games.
After a successful season at the Hammers primarily at U21 level on top of his cameo appearances for the first team, Oxford earned himself the Dylan Tombides Academy Player of the Year due to his success across the entirety of the season. Following his success, the 2015/16 Premier League season gifted the youngster an opportunity of making a statement for English football – with the support of new manager Slaven Bilic. He made his professional debut in the UEFA Europa League in the first qualifying round against FC Lusitanos, becoming West Ham’s youngest player ever.
The opening game of the season pitted West Ham versus Oxford’s boyhood team in Arsenal Football Club. To everyone’s astonishment, the midfielder was selected to make his debut against his favourite team – becoming the second youngest player in the history of the Premier League, with only Jose Baxter surpassing him. He put up a fantastic display in the process. For the remainder of the season, Oxford successfully made 9 appearances in total in the Premier League and FA Cup but failed to build upon his success at the start of the season.
One of the greatest praises that Oxford has received from players and pundits alike is his withstanding versatility as a player – successfully playing in both midfield and defensive positions. Regardless of playing as a centre-back, defensive midfielder or a central midfielder, Oxford has successfully proven his worth to the Hammers in the variety of different positions. This became evident in the most recent Premier League season as he was called up to play his debut game against Arsenal in a midfield role, yet, played against Everton in a defending role.
However, this isn’t entirely a strength for the player. The continuous switching between a defensive role and a midfield role on top of switching for the U21 and first team has become evident in his performances later in the season. For example, after seeming fit in a midfield role when brought on as a substitute for West Ham, he was later named in the starting line up against Everton but did not look suited to the position at all with Lukaku posing too much of threat for the player.
His height is a perfect attribute in regards to the position he plays on the pitch considering the fact that the Englishman is a threat in the air – both defensively and offensively. Combined with his quick flair, Oxford calmly puts pressure on the opposition regardless of when they make attacking plays as his speed and heading ability helps him to intercept the play and regain possession for his side. In the 7 matches he played a part of last season, he secured 6 interceptions on top of 9 clearances (Source – Squawka).
His calmness supports his ability to make headers and intercept the opponent’s play which has a positive effect on his passing ability. Due to his calm nature, he has consistently displayed the ability to pick out the right pass to a teammate to help win back possession or potentially start off a new attack. Overall, all of the positive attributes that Oxford has as a player has earned him the comparison to Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand.
Although his height and heading ability poses a threat for the opposition, his strength is a weakness in comparison. When playing as a centre back, Oxford finds it difficult to take the ball away from the attackers as he is unsuccessful in using his strength to intercept the play. Considering the “normal” centre back is unaffected by strength problems, it would be significant for the West Ham player to improve his strength to become less of a liability in the future.
The future of Reece Oxford is most certainly intriguing for the reason that it is unknown which team he will be lacing his boots up for next season. Thus far in the transfer window, many clubs have been linked to the youngster, but which club Oxford will play for next season is currently unknown. Nevertheless, one fact that is known is that if Oxford is to depart the Hammers for one of the top clubs in the country, they would have to pay an approximate sum of £18 million to sign the youngster.
The upcoming Premier League season will be Oxford’s golden opportunity to make a genuine statement for English football and try as hard as his to earn a sporadic place in the West Ham line-up.
However, at a tender age of just 17, it is not the end of the world for the player if he fails to capitalise on first team football next season. To achieve everything he has done thus far in his short West Ham career is a true spectacle with an incredible future ahead for the player. One thing that could become certain is his chances of being the future for England. Considering his representation of his home country at all levels until 21, the path to the first team of the Three Lions looks to be one that the player will achieve later in his career.
Written by John Smith