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Irish Hammer 1:11 Mon Jun 21
Article on Reece Oxford

Fills ten mins on a Monday morning ….interesting look at a football journey.



Reece Oxford exclusive: ‘I’d been with the first team so much I missed the gym work. I never built up the strength and got so many injuries’


It is just over four years since that memorable game at the Emirates when a young Reece Oxford shone beyond his years in West Ham United’s 2-0 win over Arsenal. By the end of the match, you could have forgiven Arsenal fans for putting up missing posters of Mesut Ozil such was the job that the teenager did on him.

Oxford was 16 years and 237 days when he became the club’s youngest league debutant on that August afternoon. He was named man of the match and the general consensus was that West Ham had unearthed a gem from their academy who would anchor their midfield for the foreseeable future.

But the pathway to success has not been as straightforward as Oxford would have envisaged. The failure to kick on from his league debut still remains a source of frustration for the now 20-year-old, who joined German side Augsburg from West Ham in a permanent transfer this summer.

As he meets The Athletic on a cold afternoon at Augsburg’s WWK Arena, Oxford is in good spirits but he is keen to set the record straight.

“Ten days before we played Arsenal we had a Europa League game [against Astra Giurgiu of Romania, in the qualifying rounds] and I started that match,” says Oxford. “Then we had the second leg and I wasn’t named in the squad. The day before the Arsenal match in training I was in the starting line-up, which I thought was strange because Kevin Nolan was the captain at the time and he was usually in the team — but he was playing for the other side. So I thought to myself, ‘Maybe he has a knock.’ Then, after training, Mark Noble came up to me and asked if I’ve ever played at the Emirates and I told him no and then he said, ‘Well, tomorrow you will be.’ I went back to the hotel and I texted my mum that I would be starting.

“I was man of the match but they couldn’t give me the champagne because I was too young. When I came off, the manager [Slaven Bilic] gave me the biggest slap on my face. He said well done and all the lads said I played well, which was a nice feeling. Then on the coach my phone just froze, I couldn’t go on it – I got so many messages. After the game me, my mum, and pretty much my whole family went to TGI Friday’s in Enfield and everyone was coming up to me and speaking to me. Just from that game, nearly everyone in England knew who I was.”

Oxford grew up in Edmonton, north London and attended St Gildas’ primary school and Alexandra Park secondary school in nearby Haringey. He admits there were challenges in staying focused when many of his peers were struggling to resist the temptations of going down the wrong path. He credits his mother, Youmna, as a big influence, who would often pick him up from school as she was not fond of him being out late.

“It was a bit difficult to keep focus but if you really want to succeed in what you want to do, you have to keep your head down. And my mum didn’t really like me being out late. Even now she hates it when I’m out late.”

It was at Interwood Football Academy, based in Walthamstow and alma mater to the likes of Colin Kazim-Richards, Bradley Johnson and Jay Simpson, that Oxford honed his skills as an up-and-coming footballer. He initially started out as a striker and it was not long before his goal-scoring prowess caught the attention of Tottenham Hotspur.

“I still remember the day I told my mum I wanted to play football,” he says. “I was in year seven at the time and I was on my way to school and I said to my mum, ‘I might as well start playing football now.’ I was playing here and there but nothing special and then she said she’ll find out where I can go. Then my dad took me to a training camp and Interwood took me straight away.

“I started late in football because most boys now start as eight-year-olds and go through academies. But I started at 12 and I was a striker back then. I was top scorer in the two seasons I was at Interwood. The first season I scored about 40 goals and then in the second season I scored roughly 65. It was crazy, I scored like four goals a game. Then after Tottenham signed me.”



Oxford played alongside former Tottenham trainee Marcus Edwards, whom he considers to be his best friend, during his six-month spell at the club’s academy. When Oxford was informed by the club that they would not be extending his stay, Hakan Houssein, a scout for West Ham, told him they were keen to sign him. Oxford made a lasting impression on the coaches at Chadwell Heath and shares the story of how he made the transition from centre-forward to a centre-half.

“I trained with West Ham as a striker for four months but they said they wanted to try me in midfield,” he explains. “Then one day in training I played as a centre-back and they were like, ‘Yes, you’re perfect in that position.’ They pulled me in a room and asked me if I wanted to play in that position. I told them I would give it a go. I didn’t want to be in a situation where I continued to play as a striker but struggled to get in the team. My dad didn’t really like it at first, but my mum said if it makes you happy, then play.”

Youmna still handles his finances and having already earned the type of money most young teenagers are only able to achieve on video game Grand Theft Auto, Oxford is looking to the future. Despite only being 20, he is wise beyond his years having already put preparations in place for life after football.

“At 15 I probably had one of the best contracts in the academy and I had to take care of the money, so I’ve been on an allowance since then. God forbid but I could break my leg tomorrow, so it’s good to know I have money in the bank and money in houses. I’m just happy that I’ve done all of that because you have to be smart with your money when you’re a young footballer. Now I know that if anything does happen I have that safety net to full back on.”

Prior to making the breakthrough into the first team, Oxford was appointed captain of West Ham under-23s, which featured the likes of Elliot Lee and George Moncur. Both are older than Oxford and he admits he had to mature a lot quicker than his peers..


“When I was in year 10 I was in and around the first team at West Ham so I had day releases and in year 11 I was hardly in school, because I was starting to feature on the bench for the first team,” he says. “Day release was Tuesday and Thursday but sometimes the first team would have a game on Wednesdays, so I couldn’t always go to school and it was a bit stressful.

“Looking back now it was crazy because I was 14 and I was playing with the under-16s. I couldn’t play with the under-18s when I was 14 because I was too young. Then I turned 15 and I remember one pre-season I came back and Terry Westley saw me training with the under-18s and said I won’t be training with the under-18s any more, I’ll be training with the second team. Then, after three games with the under-23s, Westley said I would be captain. That was a bit crazy because I was also captain of the England youth team. It made me mature quicker. There’s a lot of pressure when you’re 15 and captaining 23-year-olds, so you have to live up to expectations and not be a kid about it.”

Almost a year prior to his league debut for West Ham, Oxford was just 15 when he was named on the bench for a League Cup tie against Sheffield United. At the time the young defender was being earmarked as the new Rio Ferdinand. The Hammers lost in the end on a penalty shoot-out but had the result been different, Oxford believes he would have made his first-team debut a lot sooner.

“I remember the game [against Sheffield United] because it was on a Tuesday and I had school that day,” he recalls. “I went to the first two periods, left and went straight to the game. The manager [Sam Allardyce] said if we’re winning he’ll bring me on. I didn’t come on in the end and I turned 16 shortly after and featured on the bench for the majority of the season.

“When I was 15 everyone was saying I would be the next Rio Ferdinand. I even went to his house to get advice from him. At 15 I was getting ready to sign my scholarship and a lot of teams were interested in signing me and I stuck with West Ham because it was home for me and the pathway into the first team was more realistic as opposed to the other clubs.”

The week after that league debut against Arsenal, Oxford started the next game against Leicester but was substituted at halftime. He only played nine more matches in a season-and-a-half, almost exclusively just a handful of minutes off the bench or in Europa League qualifiers, before joining Reading on a six-month loan in January 2017.

He believes a failure to dedicate himself to the gym is the main reason why he was unable to push on with West Ham.

“Since the age of 15 I had been playing/training with the first team so I missed so much of the stuff I needed like the gym work, which a lot young players do,” he says. “I played the Leicester City game the week after the Arsenal game and my body was finished. I had so many hamstring injuries and back injuries and that was because I was hardly doing any gym work. In the first team, they don’t do as much gym work as the under-16s or under-18s who need to build up their strength and endurance. I wasn’t doing enough of that and looking back now I wish I did because I would’ve been able to handle it a bit more.”

To compound matters he only played five games for the Championship side, adding to his frustrations.

“The move to Reading was a bit crazy because it was at the last minute,” Oxford says. “There was a lot involved in the move and not many people know but it was one of those things where it would’ve cost Reading a lot to play me. Jaap Stam was a good manager and he helped me a bit, but I didn’t really kick on there because I only played a handful of games. I wanted to go out on loan so bad because I was young and I knew I wouldn’t be playing regular football at West Ham.”

Back at his parent club but with no obvious pathway into the first team, Oxford was at a crucial moment in his career. The growing possibility of being deemed a flop who failed to deliver on early potential was something he was desperately trying to dispel. A loan move to German side Borussia Monchengladbach materialised before the 2017-18 season but Oxford was perplexed when West Ham recalled him halfway through it.

“I didn’t know the reason why,” says Oxford. “I told them I wanted to stay at Gladbach and finish the season with them. My first training session back at West Ham I sprained my ankle, so it was just my luck. I was out for about three weeks and it was the January transfer window so I was rushing to get back fit so I could go back on loan to Gladbach. Then I played an FA Cup game for West Ham [against Shrewsbury Town], another one [against Wigan Athletic], came on against Crystal Palace. I told them I still want to go to back Gladbach because I was really happy there. Then on the last day of the window I was able to go back. In the summer I went back to the West Ham and there were all these new signings, so I knew it was time for me to move on. I’m young, I want to be playing regular football now, not sitting on the bench.”

The nadir of Oxford’s time at West Ham was when he had a Rolex watch stolen at the club’s training ground. It had been given to him by his mother as an 18th birthday present.

“That Rolex meant a lot to me,” he says. “It wasn’t as if I bought it and it was gone. My mum bought it, so it meant more to me. I still don’t know who stole my watch. The club said they would get back to me but no one did. A Rolex isn’t cheap and it just went down the drain, really. It hurt me a bit and no one really said, ‘Don’t worry Reece, we’ll help you get it back, or we’ll give you this.’ So I just left it and moved on.”

There has been a rise in the number of players who have moved to the Bundesliga from clubs in the Premier League.

Jadon Sancho is the obvious case in point, a talented player who grew frustrated with a lack of first team opportunities at Manchester City and has since reaped the rewards of joining Borussia Dortmund. Ademola Lookman, Rabbi Matondo and Jonjoe Kenny are all now plying their trades in the Bundesliga too. Oxford believes Germany is a safe haven for young British players.

“The city is nice but it’s not like London. Last season I noticed that,” Oxford says. “I can leave everything else behind and focus on getting the best out of my career here. A lot of young footballers go through a lot of challenges, especially when you’re young and from London. You can get caught up in the party life or the street life with bad influences. I live by myself in Germany and it’s better because you have to be dependent and obviously you mature quicker. Stephan [Lichtsteiner, the former Arsenal and Juventus defender now at Augsburg] has been giving me advice which has been great because he has a lot of experience. He’s good for me and good for all the other young players. My German is not so good. I can understand a lot but the pronunciation is a bit hard.

“Augsburg ( a city of around 300,000 people an hour north of Munich) is very quiet so there’s not much to do, but it’s better because I can kick on and just focus on football. In this country they’re really good with young players. As young players we’re going to have the odd game where we don’t play particularly well. I could have a bad game and the manager will still push me and say, ‘Don’t worry about it, Reece. Just think about the next game. You’re young, just grow from it.’



“In England it’s hard because the media kill you too quick. If you have one bad game the narrative is, ‘Oh, he’s not good enough. He’s not living up to what he’s meant to be living up to.’ But in Germany it’s nothing like that. Young players get a chance out here. Playing in this league will help me become a much better player.”

So far this term, Oxford has played five league games under the talent-enhancing guidance of Martin Schmidt. The 20-year-old has his sights set on earning a place in Gareth Southgate’s senior England squad in the near future.

“In the next two years I hope to be a very important player for Augsburg and hopefully play for England,” he says. “I want to have a lot of games under my belt because it will help me with my progress. England is one of my main targets because I want to play for my national team. It would be a great feeling to represent my country and I’m going to keep working hard to achieve that goal

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

Eindhoven Hammer 8:26 Tue Jun 22
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
I saw him playing a reserve game a couple of years ago and he was just going through the motions. I said then that he’d probably be playing in League One or Two by 26-28 and non-league by 30. I’ll stick by that.

Billy Blagg 7:36 Tue Jun 22
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
The mental side of the game is almost as important as the physical now and reading this...well, it just doesn't read well. I think what is happening to him is apparent in the way he talks about himself. I was astonished when the club let him go but the fans don't know what goes on behind the scenes and they obviously thought he wasn't going to make it here. I wish him well but it's not looking good.

Mex Martillo 4:07 Tue Jun 22
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
Didn’t realise this was an old article and he hasn’t done much in the last 2 years.
Maybe he will be needing those savings after all.

terry-h 1:32 Tue Jun 22
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
Not long before he left West Ham, he scored a shocking own goal heading the ball past young Anang our u-23 goalie.When the keeper queried his action, a prostrate Reece Oxford looked up at him and started laughing. Not only had his form disappeared,but his attitude had begun to stink the place out.
When Augsburg paid the small fee on signing him, he and his agent told West Ham that he would refuse the move unless this was paid to the player. So we got bugger all for him from the German club in the end.

SurfaceAgentX2Zero 12:41 Tue Jun 22
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
So the biggest thing he remembers from his time at West Ham was that someone nicked his watch and the club didn't get him another one.

Seems like a massive cunt to me. True, his parents seem to be money-grabbing cunts as well, but lots of people have cunty parents.

charleyfarley 11:13 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
Cheers Irish

Roby 10:36 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
This article seems to be from early in the 2019/20 season - October 2019.

He’s not done a lot since then.

To be honest he was a fucking flash idiot to be taking an 18 carat Rolex to the dressing room at a youth or reserve game when the other kids would be on peanuts. That’s just a lack of common sense.

Pretty sure Jaap Stam at Reading when he was on loan slagged him off for being a big-head and wouldn’t play him - don’t think his lack of success there was down to West Ham.

Jaan Kenbrovin 9:38 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
Two years on he has managed only 15 starts in 2 seasons for Augsburg.

On The Ball 8:41 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
Amazing how the coaching staff got it so wrong with him but then so right with Deccers at almost the same time. Hmm......

Dandy Lyon 7:58 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
I like to think the club stole his watch and sold it to get a s as mall percentage of what the work shy gobshite stole in wages

⚒️ 7:27 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
We need to forget about this kid now.

He’s never gonna make it.

collyrob 7:26 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
He’s 22

Mex Martillo 7:02 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
I’m surprised he is still only 20. He has achieved a lot for 20, still plenty of time to make it. Surprised, no mention of Rice, they must’ve been in the same group?

Side of Ham 7:01 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
What speaks volumes is that Declan got the same treatment, was brought into the first team to play centre back, and was that good they gave him a go in centre midfield because we sold Pedro and excelled there too!

threesixty 6:57 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
People say he didnt have the drive etc..
But reading the interview he says he didnt even go out late because of his mum! So he must have been a pretty disciplined kid especially in the area he grew up in.

Also, he seemed hyper aware that he needed to be playing games as a youngster. He was upset to be recalled because he knew he wouldnt be playing. Also moving to germany shows a lot of balls for a young kid. Its not the first option English kids take in getting their career off the ground.

Finally, to get your watch stolen and the club not give a shit either. I dunno. It sounds to me at that time the club didnt really have an arm around any of the young lads at the club.

It reminds me of the time when Allardyce played that youth team in the cup game and just hung them out to dry to prove a point to the board. Most of those players got released after that didnt they?

Yes his mum + dad may not have been football people and may have not known everything that is required. But I think the club need to step in and do what it takes to make sure everyone knows whats required and how to do it.

I can only think of 2 youth player since the Joe Cole days that have done anything at this club. (Rice & Diangana). NGakia was literally lucky to get a shot and even he didnt beleive he was going to get any game time after that so left as soon as he could.

I just think it speaks volumes about how we have treated our youth prospects.

Crassus 6:45 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
The bloke is a cunt and the discrepancies within his whining are there to see

So he was such a wonderful player that he captained everything from England yoots in infants school to the local Brownies netball team, whilst being upon the best contract

Whilst his peers where busy in the gym he was doing fuck all with the first team squad, yeah, righto

He then fucked off after making a handfulll of subs appearances because he needed to and incidentally had his gold Rolex half inched that his mum bought him from the gravy train

There is a pattern there, supremely gifted like Ravel, and .... hang on, were they in the same dressing room?

Hermit Road 6:28 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
Being a top athlete is about the internal drive more than talent. Of the players that make it, there were always more talented peers who didn't. I don't buy that this is the staff's fault. I've known more players at that age on the books of clubs than I can count and they were all hyper aware of how to eat and train.

It seems as if he hasn't got that internal drive or sense of responsibility required. Hopefully he will develop those qualities because he is a talented player and could have a good career.

Side of Ham 6:14 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
Reece Burke was skinnier than him and he seemed to get shown the door after getting mullered by Lukaku.......just got his head down and forged himself a career in a lower division.

Darby_ 6:10 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
Kaiser, it's not so much that the training staff didn't want to. It's probably just that it didn't occur to them. He's always looked very skinny for a footballer.

Either way, I think it's probably a mix of both. I never saw him play in the reserves, but if people think he looked lazy and like he was too good to be there, then fair enough.

zico 6:04 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
I suspect the truth is somewhere between the two. The examples on here like Lampard, the Neville's, Beckham did possibly have the advantage of several of them coming through at the sometime. If Lampard hits the gym Rio is more likely to follow, that sort of thing. Can't remember if Oxford had peers coming through at the same time but possibly not.

I remember watching an interview with Jermain Defoe and he said the likes of Wright and Di Canio were the perfect examples for him to look up to with Di Canio's training intensity and the way Wright partnered up with Defoe for shooting practice etc., So it's a combination of the player themselves and their desire/work ethic, the management and coaches, other players leading by example and parental guidance, which makes Declan's rise so impressive as he has continued to improve under different stewardships and without too many of his own age coming through.

I suspect pressure has something to do with it as well. I can't remember too many lauding Rice before he was a first teamer but remember there was a lot of hope for this young lad called Reece Oxford and that can have an effect.

Dandy Lyon 6:01 Mon Jun 21
Re: Article on Reece Oxford
Irish

The majority of their time is spent with family. The club get relatively little time which is why the family unit is such a big factor to their success.

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