It was just over three years ago that Reece Oxford was keeping Mesut Ozil in his pocket as a 16-year-old making his West Ham league debut on the opening day of the season. That display in a surprise 2-0 win at the Emirates suggested that it was inevitable that Oxford would soon be one of the first names on the Irons' teamsheet on a regular basis.
It would have been almost unthinkable to suggest to someone on that day that Oxford would go into the 2018/19 season having only made eight Premier League appearances, including just one after that debut campaign under Slaven Bilic.
And while Declan Rice was putting in a stunning performance as Manuel Pellegrini's men won 3-1 at Everton at the weekend, Oxford seemingly finds himself some way from the first-team fold, having played regularly for the under-23s.
On Tuesday, he found himself in the starting lineup and captaining the under-21s for their Checkatrade Trophy clash with Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium.
And unfortunately for Oxford, it was not the kind of performance that would have made Pellegrini sit up and take notice. He has to take a portion of the blame for the opening goal in the 2-0 defeat as his pass was intercepted and led to Alex Jakubiak curling the ball home.
It is not uncommon for the Premier League sides' academy teams to be beaten in the competition by the senior sides from League One and League Two, but there would have once been a time when West Ham fans would have been outraged by the sight of Oxford being involved, and would have expected the defender to stroll through the game looking a class above anything else on the pitch.
But that did not prove to be the case. And with Pellegrini having so many defensive options to pick from, it is now sadly difficult to see where Oxford's next first-team appearance is coming from.
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