West Ham’s promising teenage prospect Reece Oxford this week signed for a season-long loan at German Bundesliga side Borussia Munchengladbach.
On paper this sounds like a good move for Oxford, as he will hopefully gain some much-needed first team experience and come back to the Hammers a better and more rounded player.
However, on a cautionary note, last season Oxford spent four months on loan at Championship side Reading and only made five appearances. This was not the way to gain first team experience and who is to say the same scenario will not occur this coming season in Germany.
A number of questions come to the fore. Does Oxford even speak German? Will he learn the language? Will he adapt to the German style of play? And most importantly, will he like sausages and sauerkraut?
The last question is the wurst joke! Sorry, I couldn’t resist that. But on a serious note, will the move be any good for him? I suppose only time will tell.
Another option would have been to keep Oxford in this country and actually play him in the first team next season. The club desperately need central defensive reinforcements and are rumoured to be looking to buy a player. West Ham are missing a trick as they seem to be overlooking an obvious defensive candidate.
A couple of seasons ago it looked like he was about to fulfil his potential when he made his debut, aged 16, in the Europa League tie against Lusitanos in July 2015. A few weeks later he then made his league debut, playing 79 minutes in the Hammers 2-0 away win at Arsenal. In doing so, he became the second youngest Premier League starter of all time.
Unfortunately, since then, West Ham regulars have rarely seen Oxford, as his appearances have dwindled to the odd occasion on the substitutes bench.
How will he ever prove himself unless he is given some first team action?
West Ham proudly describe themselves as the Academy of Football, as the club has a history of finding, nurturing and most importantly, playing youngsters in the first team.
Over years, numerous future internationals have come through the Hammers youth setup and made their debuts as teenagers.
From the 1966 World Cup winning trio of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, to more recent stars such as Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand, all of these players were able to develop quickly by being given the chance to play in the first team early in their careers.
Many young players will be sent out on loan for a season to gain experience. Lampard and Ferdinand both did this and came back better players. They were able to adjust to the rigours and physicality of first team football at the highest level.
Last season West Ham had a number of young players out on loan, including Josh Cullen at Bradford City, Reece Burke at Wigan Athletic and promising striker Toni Martinez at Oxford United. Between them, they have only played half a dozen times for West Ham’s first team, so playing on loan for a lower league side was undoubtedly an excellent way to gain experience.
Returning to Reece Oxford, he has already been out on loan and played in the first team. This coming season would have been the ideal time to find out if he is good enough. Instead, West Ham may be wasting a young talent, as sitting on the bench in Germany is no good for anyone.