Thursday 19 April 2018

Oxford reveals Spurs rejection

Reece Oxford, pictured left, made an assured league debut for West Ham on Sunday
Reece Oxford, pictured left, made an assured league debut for West Ham on Sunday

Reece Oxford has revealed that Tottenham rejected the chance to sign him before he joined West Ham.

The promising midfielder made his Barclays Premier League debut on Sunday in the 2-0 win at Arsenal aged 16 years and 236 days.

Despite being West Ham's youngest ever first-team player, he justified what had appeared a risky selection from manager Slaven Bilic by displaying a maturity beyond his years to largely nullify the collective threat of Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla.

Given the reputations of each there is little question that Oxford's contribution was key to their victory. He joined West Ham at under-13 level after leaving Tottenham and, ultimately, Spurs' loss could repeatedly prove their rivals' gain.

"I was at Tottenham for a while, but they did not want me, and I went to West Ham, which was the best option for me," said Oxford, who is scheduled to receive his GCSE results next week.

"I was a striker back then (at Spurs).

"The (West Ham) youth academy is great. They like to push players, we have a few youngsters playing (in the) under-21s, which is good.

"West Ham have been giving the young players a chance who are coming through.

"Last season I was on the bench a few times, so I expected to be around the team again this season, but not starting against Arsenal."

Though West Ham have long had a reputation for developing promising young players - in recent years Mark Noble and James Tomkins are among those to regularly feature for the first team - the last England international the club produced was Glen Johnson in 2002-03.

Before then, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand were part of a successful, separate generation and Oxford, who can also play in defence but anchored West Ham's midfield on Sunday, is already being compared to the latter.

When asked about being 'the new Rio', Oxford said: "I have heard that a lot. It is good, he was great, so me being compared to him is an honour really.

"I have not played centre-back in a while, I can play both.

"It was just an honour to play. I found out on Saturday night, I was speaking about Match of the Day, and said that tomorrow I could be on it.

"(Bilic) asked me to sit and talk to everyone to help get them into position, not to let Arsenal catch us out on the break, to keep it simple and not try to do too much.

"The manager said my performance was good, it was a dream debut for me.

"I will just go back to celebrate with my mum and dad, my family.

"[And] I have got Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's shirt."

Cheikhou Kouyate, whose first-half header gave West Ham the lead, played alongside Oxford in midfield and understandably praised his performance.

"It is unbelievable, that at 16 years old he is playing for West Ham, so easily with no stress," he said.

"Before the game, I told him 'I believe in you'."

Press Association

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