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Rewind to July 2015 and Reece Oxford was a name on the lips of many a West Ham and England fan. Handed his debut at just 16 years and 198 days (a club record) here was the much vaunted successor to Rio Ferdinand and Bobby Moore.
A tall and graceful player, the archetypal ball-playing centre-half that club and country so desperately needed. Such was his early promise that the young defender was soon linked with a transfer to clubs such as Arsenal and Manchester United.
Two years later and Oxford’s fledgling career seems to have stalled somewhat, fans hoping to see his progress fast tracked will have no doubt been disappointed.
Since his debut, Oxford has played just 42 times for club and country; a handful of games for West Ham, followed by a loan to Reading that yielded just 5 appearances.
This number is perhaps unsurprising given his tender years, but the early media hype suggested that here was a young man soon to become a fixture within club football.
Despite having been capped at Under 20 level, Oxford was a noticeable absentee from this summer’s World Cup winning squad.
Those who have followed his career will perhaps be heartened to hear of his impending loan to Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach.
Given the much decried lack of game time for young English talent at the top level, this is a move which is sure to be followed with much interest in academies up and down the country. Young English footballers have traditionally been reticent to ply their trade on the continent.
And whilst this move is not without precedent, we have seen very few English youngsters playing across Europe’s top divisions. Maybe this could be the cultural and footballing education to take his game to the next level.
A possible catalyst
Perhaps it will also serve to offer some encouragement to his peers and show that there are options outside of England’s 4 divisions for those that have both the aptitude and attitude.
Only time will tell if the move will prove to be a success, but there is no doubt Gareth Southgate and Aidy Boothroyd will be looking on with interest.
Written by Will Trattles
Follow Will on Twitter @WillTratts
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