In a world where the “next best thing” is always a hot commodity, one cannot describe how pleasant it is to browse the papers over a pint, skimming through an article about the next exciting football prospect worth going down to the betting store over and putting down some Randela’s on them becoming top class internationals in years to come. Its worth noting how very few of these protégés end up becoming the greats they were hyped up to be by the glowing reviews, as my bookmakers bank balance will attest to; but the journeys I have undergone tracking many of these young players have been worth every single penny scraped into a bet.
There are generations of football enthusiasts that have borne witness to the marvellous success enjoyed by the West Ham United Academy when it comes to developing elite level ready young footballers with great potential and ample technical prowess. Rightly dubbed, The Academy of Football, United seem to be using their newfound off-field profile and anticipated financial growth from moving stadia as a platform for rebuilding the club upon its long heralded ethos of developing good young British footballers to supplement their first steam squad, a first team that has now shown signs of possessing the quality required to compete well in the top half of the EPL table while playing some good attacking football.
The current generation of football enthusiasts have now had a glimpse of this great prowess possessed by United in the form of a young defensive talent named Reece Oxford, a gifted young footballer who showcased maturity beyond his tender years in his debut against one of the most blessed attacking units in the football realm, and the youngster seems to grow in stature with every minute he spends on the field in his maiden season as a professional; Oxford’s debut against Arsenal raised a few eyebrows in the club’s maiden Premier League game of the campaign as he became the second youngest Premier League starter after Jose Baxter, yet the performance of the team was superb and young Oxford was a marvel to watch at the base of the diamond in midfield where he defended with aplomb and only gave away possession once in his 79 minutes on the park. If there were any doubts over his potential rating on the talent barometer or readiness for the elite level before, they were dispatched with authority by the 16 year old Londoner who played better in his maiden London derby than men almost twice his age on the opposition side.
The advances in modern football had lead many football academies in England towards a focus on developing more attack minded footballers, which inadvertently saw the lofty defensive standards of the nation naturally begin to decline as the quality of defenders diminished greatly due to the focus on attacking talents. The teething phase seems to have passed in many respects, as we now are now witnessing a flock of good defensive players coming out of all parts of Great Britain, that balance and advancement can be witnessed in a 16 year old defensive prospect that has the potential and the gifts to develop into a top-class defender for club and country in the coming decade and a half. Blessed with great physical strength and the defensive nous of a seasoned professional, Reece Oxford has the positional sense and the awareness to seek and destroy dangerous attacking movements to establish himself as a dominant defensive force in English football; timing in the challenge and the technical dexterity to play the ball out from the back are some of Oxford’s more outstanding qualities in a bag that possesses many tricks.
It is no longer a surprise for one to tune into a Barclays Premier League game and see a teenage defender holding his own against seasoned professionals; this welcome trend will only bode well for the future of football, as the Beautiful Game needs all its key role players working optimally for the chain to remain fluid. If West Ham United can keep scouting, nurturing and promoting good young footballers into their first team squad, one cannot help but feel as if it’s only a matter of time before the Three Lions have a heavy West Ham imprint again; The Hammers are on the rise yet again, and quickly evolving into an all-round fantastic football club with a proud tradition of developing top level ready young footballers that add value to a first team brimming with some top level talent. Very few folks would have predicted that the former Tottenham Hotspur trainee would move to his boyhood club after being released by Spurs and eventually be converted from a forward into a defender with the potential to develop into one of the most gifted footballers in his generation, Gordon Bennett mate, The Hammers have ample reason to keep on “Dreaming Dreams” & “Scheming Schemes” all while “Forever Blowing Pretty Bubbles In The Air” and Bob’s your Green Street Hooligans DVD box-set owning Uncle.
Full Name: Reece Joel Oxford
DoB: December 16th, 1998 (16)
PoB: Edmonton, London; England
Height: 1. 90m
Position: Stopper Defender, Cover Defender, Ball-Playing Defender, Anchorman, Ball-Winning Midfielder
Club: West Ham United
Club Jersey Number: #35
Market Value: £ 575 000
Career Club Record: 6 Games
National Team Caps: N/A (England u/16 & u/17 International)