It’s now 26 months since Reece Oxford was lining up to make his Premier League debut as a little known 16-year-old in the most daunting of environments. 90 minutes later, however, West Ham had won 2-0 away at Arsenal and their teenage star was being lauded as England’s next wonderkid - the second coming of Rio Ferdinand.
Flash forward to the present day, however, and Oxford has made just 18 more appearances in his professional career. West Ham manager Slaven Bilic, despite signing the Edmonton-born starlet’s praises, has been reluctant to include him in the first-team and his reputation has taken a hit after two disappointing loan spells.
Oxford played just five times during half a season at Reading last year, tallying just 201 minutes. Yet, that is 201 minutes more than he managed at Borussia Monchengladbach.
The natural centre-half, who is still just 18, raised plenty of eyebrows when he moved to the Bundesliga on a two-year loan in the summer. However, his search for more regular game time hasn’t exactly gone to plan, The Sun reporting that a ‘massively disappointed’ Oxford will return to West Ham as early as December after failing to even make his debut for Gladbach.
What could've been?
Oxford is no closer to the West Ham starting XI, yet, you can trace his current struggles back to his decision to snub Rangers in January and wonder what might have been if he’d made the move across the border.
The Sun reported that Mark Warburton’s, then Rangers manager, was hoping to land Oxford on loan before he joined Reading, but Pedro Caixinha, who replaced Warburton at Ibrox two months later, could have been the key to getting the best out of the young talent.
After all, Caixinha has shown a willingness to give youth a chance with highly-rated centre-half Ross McCrorie the latest fresh-faced player in Rangers’ first-team.
Oxford, then, could have got the minutes he’d been craving while also learning to play for a club with huge fan pressure and expectation. Instead, reserve team football is probably the best he can hope for.