West Ham United started their 2015/16 season much earlier than any of their Premier League rivals, playing in the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round on 2 July. Reece Oxford, then 16, made his senior debut for the east Londoners that day and has since gone on to feature a further seven times for Slaven Bilić's side, most recently against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup on 9 January. Last month, on his 17th birthday, he also signed his first professional contract.
Name: Reece Oxford
Club: West Ham United
Debut: 2 July 2015 v Lusitans
Date of birth: 16/12/98
Preferred foot: right
— West Ham United FC (@whufc_official) December 31, 2015
They say …
"He's definitely going to be a big player. He's only 16 so he's going to have ups and downs, but for now we have to manage him – not only on the pitch but off it too so he stays grounded and can progress. The boy has everything, everything."
Slaven Bilić, West Ham manager
Born in Edmonton, north London, Oxford spent his pre-teen years as a striker at nearby Tottenham Hotspur, who released him in 2011, opening the door for West Ham to secure his services. Last summer, Oxford – who broke into the club's Under-21 team as a 15-year-old – graduated to the senior squad as Respect Fair Play entrants West Ham embarked on their first European campaign since 2006/07.
Playing style …
Operating at centre-back, Oxford skippered England as they reached the quarter-finals of the 2015 UEFA European U17 Championship in Bulgaria. Tall and quick, he is not daunted in the face of illustrious opponents. Indeed, his calm, unflustered demeanour is one of his biggest assets. "If Messi was in front of me, I'd be more fazed than Reece," Bilić told Sky Sports. "People were asking [after his display at Arsenal on 9 August]: 'Are you sure he is 16?'"
Shades of …
Oxford has been compared to Rio Ferdinand, who came through the West Ham academy two decades before him.
Eureka moment …
Oxford was handed a surprise start for West Ham's tough opening-day assignment at Arsenal. Tasked with protecting centre-backs Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna, Oxford helped neutralise a home midfield containing the creative talents of Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla. His showing in a surprise 2-0 victory was widely praised.
And well done Reece Oxford. A truly astonishing debut by the 16 year old.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 9, 2015
Best-case scenario …
With West Ham relocating to the 2012 Olympic Stadium next season, Oxford will have a bigger arena in which to showcase his talents. The hope is he could one day succeed another local lad, Mark Noble, as Hammers captain.
He says …
"Sometimes players can fall off a bit when they sign a big deal, but I just want to get better and progress as a player. I want to start in the Premier League and sign longer for the club."
"I always get reminded that I did so well against Arsenal and I have to pinch myself that I did OK against the top players. I hope I showed my potential and hopefully I can kick on this season and get some more games for the first team."
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