Friday 20 July 2018

Bilic wants Oxford talk to stop

Reece Oxford, right, was handed his Premier League debut at Arsenal last weekend
Reece Oxford, right, was handed his Premier League debut at Arsenal last weekend

Slaven Bilic wants all the talk surrounding the recent performance of teenager Reece Oxford to stop.

Oxford was the name on everyone's lips following the opening weekend of the new season as the 16-year-old put in a midfield masterclass to shackle the likes of Mesut Ozil during West Ham's 2-0 win at Arsenal.

Since then the academy graduate, who collects his GCSE results next week, has been the topic of conversation for many football fans - especially those who support the Hammers.

But West Ham boss Bilic, who welcomes Leicester to Upton Park on Saturday looking to make it two league wins out of two, says it is now time for the talking to stop, allowing Oxford and the rest of his squad to continue their start.

"It would be best for everybody to stop talking about Reece Oxford," said the Croatian.

"For him, definitely, and also for us at the football club to concentrate not just on Oxford, but on all the players. We have a game on Saturday, a big game for us, that he is going to be involved in.

"I spoke about him after the Arsenal game, then Monday, Tuesday, Thursday. We are talking about Oxford and it's not good for me and it's not good for him. I have no problem doing it but it's no good for the game on Saturday."

Oxford, who became West Ham's youngest first-team player in the club's history when he lined up in the Europa League qualifier against FC Lusitans, is captain of England's Under-17 side and developed into a highly-rated central defender in the Irons' youth set-up.

He was deployed in a deep-lying midfield role against Arsenal as Bilic drew plenty of plaudits for putting his faith in the teenager.

But Bilic said the decision was not taken with the aim of receiving praise - rather that Oxford was ready for the game and was the best option available to him.

He said: "There is nothing wrong with young players but I'm not the guy who gave them a chance because they are young players and people will go 'yeah, yeah, yeah'.

"My job is to play good football, to collect points, to stay in the job as long as possible and to make my employers and the fans, myself, my family and my kids happy.

"That is the only aspect, before I pick the team, that I am aware of; which team is the best to face Arsenal, not which team is the youngest or if I put this player in they are going to praise me like crazy if we do good.

"Of course, the young players are always good to have in the squad, it is good to have the new energy, the young energy. They are hungry, they are always like this. The best is to have a balance. I'm trying to put out a good team no matter how old or young."

Press Association

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