What do you get when you cross a world famous football academy with two young starlets? The answer, in this instance, is Reece Oxford and Joe Powell. For decades, West Ham United has proudly sprouted young talent from its Academy of Football, and although the signs of its prominence may be slipping away with the times, there are still the odd flashes of brilliance that give us hope for the future.
So, we know their names, but what else do we know about these lads and why should we be so optimistic that either their on-field talents or their future price tags will be a positive? Defender Oxford has already been scouted by the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. At the tender age of 16, they’re some impressive endorsements. I could probably end the article there, couldn’t I?
Although unused as a substitute, Oxford has been on the bench and ready for action for the first team in both the League Cup and Premier League, something that West Ham under-18s coach has suggested the youngster is ready for.
Joe Powell is a promising attacking midfielder who, like Oxford, has already set footprints in the Hammers’ under-21 squad despite being just 16. Academy manager Terry Westley has confirmed that there has also been interest in Powell’s signature from other clubs (thought to be Chelsea and Aston Villa), but is adamant that West Ham are keen on developing him into a first team player.
The pair signed their very first professional contracts ahead of the FA Cup replay with Everton, and their signatures were long awaited. Following offers for both players, they seemingly held out and made the club sweat over their futures before finally committing.
Despite promising signs for Joe Powell and comparisons with Frank Lampard Jnr, his friend Reece is by far stealing the limelight. I’m inclined to say there’s no smoke without fire and the reasons for Oxford’s increasing hype bubble are evident. Perhaps given the current defensive injury woes of West Ham United and the potential departure of Winston Reid, his arrival on the Premier League subs bench will prove his worth.
With Big Sam not having the reputation for trusting youngsters who perhaps don’t fit his traditional style, to have picked a 16-year-old as a Oxford and Powell can justify our big investment in youth The Academy is not cheap but these two young stars are worth it Reece Oxford & Joe Powell Rated: Reece Oxford is expected to achieve big things in football back up was eye catching to say the least. Allardyce later admitted to being disappointed that the game at Anfield and its circumstances didn’t lend itself to his debut.
Oxford has been likened to former Hammer Rio Ferdinand, who in his day was a West Ham Academy hero. His hefty price tag was proof of his value to the club, and the gap he left was almost un-fillable. To have someone else of that calibre for a few years would be of great benefit to the club — to maintain a steady defensive presence and become a fan favourite would be the ultimate achievement.
With the millions that are piled into youth development (some £4million a year according to Sullivan), he’s right to suggest that there should be further legislation that prevents other clubs from snapping up hyped young players for a relatively small price. Although there is a compensation payment, Sullivan believes that this is nothing compared to the costs of developing players in a youth system, and bares no relation to what they could be worth just a few years down the line.
The circus surrounding Powell and Oxford has led to further cost for the club to keep hold of them with more attractive contracts. But hey, what’s a few quid when the future is so bright? You could ask Sir Alex Ferguson that question — in retrospect, the former Manchester United manager should have offered fringe player Paul Pogba the wage and contract he believed he deserved. Ferguson refused to pay, and the player has moved on to become one of the most highly valued young players in the world.
Oxford has nine England under-17 caps to his name and has captained the national side. Powell certainly has the potential to fill international boots with his tendency to make creative plays within the midfield and drive forward. This all points to there being plenty to shout about in the coming years, and Westley is willing to work these players hard to reach their full potential whilst keeping their feet on the ground .
Westley has a four year plan in mind for these two, a plan that takes them into the Olympic Stadium generation — assuming the club can move onwards and upwards, there should be enough to keep them excited about their own careers in east London. Powell comes from a family of Hammers’ fans too, a side note that makes him all the more attractive in the long run. If he can become a West Ham great in a new stadium, who knows what tales the history books will tell?
For the relatively small amount that we know about these two 16-yearolds, there’s enough to fuel the fire of hope. But football’s become a fickle and unpredictable sport — what we rave about today we may have forgotten tomorrow. The right noises are being made to suggest that we will keep hold of Oxford and Powell and develop them into Premier League and international regulars who can enjoy their football with West Ham.