In August 2015, English defender Reece Oxford became West Ham United’s youngest league debutant aged 16, putting in a man-of-the-match performance in the season opener against Arsenal.
Shockingly, the Hammers’ academy graduate only played seven more league games for the club – six of which came that same season – before joining FC Augsburg permanently during the summer after a temporary stint last term.
Oxford had loan spells at Reading and Borussia Mönchengladbach as he sought regular playing minutes after dropping out of the first-team picture, and has revealed one of the major reasons he thinks led to his failure to keep up with the pace at the London Stadium club.
“Since the age of 15 I had been playing/training with the first team so I missed so much of the stuff I needed like the gym work, which a lot of young players do,” Oxford told The Athletic.
“I played the Leicester City game the week after the Arsenal game and my body was finished. I had so many hamstring injuries and back injuries and that was because I was hardly doing any gym work. In the first team, they don’t do as much gym work as the under-16s or under-18s who need to build up their strength and endurance.
“I wasn’t doing enough of that and looking back now I wish I did because I would’ve been able to handle it a bit more.”
Oxford was tipped to go all the way and establish himself as a key member of the West Ham starting XI following that Arsenal game, but it all came too early and sudden for his development, and he would hope to use that lesson to spur himself on going forward.