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FALL FROM GRACE

The Reece Oxford story: from pocketing Mesut Ozil to West Ham castaway

Oxford had a Premier League debut to remember but has since faded into obscurity

At 16 years old you can’t legally vote and you’re reliant on your older brother’s ID to get served in Wetherspoons.

Despite the limitations for your average teenage Brit, Reece Oxford, who, while still waiting for his GCSE results, spent 90 minutes with a World Cup winner in his back pocket.

And people say the youth of today are useless?

The streets won’t forget this game

PA:Empics Sport
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The streets won’t forget this game

The youngster announced himself to the world back in 2015 as West Ham ran out shock 2-0 winners away to Arsenal on the opening day of the season.

A centre-back by trade, Oxford was named Man of the Match after shackling Mesut Ozil in a 79-minute masterclass, starving the Gunners of creativity from defensive midfield and finishing the game with a pass-completion rate of 95% – the highest of any player on the pitch.

Remember the name

AFP
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Remember the name

At just 16 years and 236 days old, Oxford reached the peak of his career.

His subsequent fall from grace is an anomaly.

Since stealing the show at the Emirates in 2015, the 20-year-old has made just six Premier League appearances and become a footballing nomad.

Success at youth level came naturally

PA:Empics Sport
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Success at youth level came naturally

The youngster was used sparingly in the remainder of his debut season and joined Championship side Reading on loan midway through the 2016/17 campaign to kick-start his career.

Oxford cited then Royals manager Jaap Stam as a major influence on his decision to join – stating that he hoped to learn from ‘one of the best centre-backs in the world.’

The mentorship he dreamed of never materialised, with Stam claiming that the youngster was ‘unable to cope with the intensity of training’ upon his arrival.

A headache of a loan spell

Rex Features
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A headache of a loan spell

After making just a handful of appearances for Reading, Oxford followed a number of young English players by heading to the Bundesliga to nurture his talent.

Ahead of the 2017/18 campaign he joined Borussia Monchengladbach on a season-long loan – but started only seven times during that spell.

Despite a lack of playing time, Monchengladbach Sporting Director Max Eberl revealed that the club were exploring the possibility of signing the youngster on a permanent deal – a move that never materialised.

How’s your German?

Getty - Contributor
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How’s your German?

With West Ham in the midst of a defensive crisis, Oxford was left frustrated by David Moyes’ decision to end his loan prematurely.

He played just three times back at his parent club before returning to Monchengladbach for the remainder of the season.

Oxford spent the second half of this campaign with FC Augsburg and is close to sealing a £3million move to the Bundesliga outfit.

Rebuild from the ground up

Getty - Contributor
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Rebuild from the ground up

This fascination with a career in Germany is no hipster trend for Oxford, instead it’s born out of necessity.

English clubs seem wary of getting their fingers burnt by the man who was once labelled the ‘next Rio Ferdinand’ – comparisons that intensified following a Golden Boy nomination in 2017.

Oxford’s recognition as one of the best young players in Europe was only two years ago but for him it must seem like a lifetime away now.

It wasn’t meant to be like this

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It wasn’t meant to be like this

It’s easy to see why we all got carried away after his debut against Arsenal.

Ozil went on to register 19 Premier League assists in a season that he started in the pocket of the 16-year-old rookie.

Declan Rice’s emergence through the ranks and first-team success looks set to be the final nail in the coffin of Oxford’s West Ham career.

His days in east London are numbered

Getty - Contributor
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His days in east London are numbered

A player once touted as a future captain of the club now finds himself surplus to requirements.

Even with time on his side, Oxford’s career rests perilously close to the football scrapheap.



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