Reece Oxford burst onto the footballing scene making his debut at just 16 years of age in a 2-0 win against Arsenal back in August of 2015. The West Ham man held his own against a talented Arsenal midfield and put in a display far beyond his tender years. It was a performance that made Oxford the next big thing in English football. He made a number of other notable performances throughout the rest of that season as he became recognised as one of English football’s most promising young talents.
However, the youngster has found team opportunities at West Ham difficult to come by making only two first team appearances this season; both of which have come in the Europa League. It was likely that this competition would have been the main supply of playing time for Oxford, but an unexpectedly early elimination at the hands of Romanian side Astra Giurgiu from the tournament put an end to these opportunities.
Since arriving at the Madejski Stadium, Oxford has failed to make a single appearance under Jaap Stam. This is despite many injuries across the back line and Reading keeping only 1 clean sheet since deadline day when the West Ham man signed. It was widely expected among Reading fans that, albeit as cover, Oxford would have a role to play in their push for promotion. However, it appears that the majority of the youngster’s learning will happen on the training ground.
A further cause of frustration for Reece Oxford will be that he has also sustained a light injury that has delayed his progress in breaking into the first team. The West Ham youngster would have viewed this move as an opportunity to get himself back into Slaven Bilic’s plans, but with Reading’s more senior players now returning to fitness and re-entering the first team, it is looking like Oxford may have to continue to wait for his chance. Many believe that Oxford is being lined up as the next defensive mainstay for West Ham with current centre-halves starting to get older and Reece Oxford having recently signed a lengthy contract with Slaven Bilic’s side.
The England youth international isn’t the first loanee to arrive with a big reputation and spend a frustrating spell on the sidelines. One of the more known examples would be Patrick Bamford arriving at Crystal Palace and Burnley, and seeing himself watching from the dugout more often than not. Another example is Scott Sinclair, signing with West Brom for the duration of the 2013/14 season, and making just four starts in that time. Sinclair arrived at the Hawthorns having secured a big move to Manchester City after playing a key role in Swansea’s promotion to the Premier League, but soon found himself out-of-favour.
It is no doubt a tough situation arriving at a club hoping to continue to build your name within the game, having already proved your ability elsewhere, and finding yourself slowly falling off the footballing radar as your reputation’s growth slows.
It will be a real test for the West Ham man as to whether he can find any positives out of this loan. The opportunity to work under Jaap Stam will have been a major factor in Oxford agreeing to make the move to Berkshire, but a lack of playing time will frustrate the youngster who was at one point the subject of interest from the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City, as reported by the Mirror.
There is no doubt that Reece Oxford is an exceptionally talented young player but all too often we see young players sent out on loan to teams in lower divisions and continuing to not play any first team football. There is still a chance that the West Ham youngster could have a part to play in Reading’s promotion bid this season, but if he remains stuck on the sidelines it will be a missed opportunity to learn a great deal about a game. The lack of appearances will be frustrating for both Oxford and his West Ham employers but as we all know; there are no guarantees in football.
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