Reece gives 'Oxford' new meaning

West Ham teen star carries local legacy into English Premier League

BY HOWARD WALKER Observer senior reporter walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, October 03, 2015

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THE word Oxford is usually associated with excellence with regards to the Oxford Dictionary and the Ivy League Oxford University in England.


In Jamaica, the name Oxford will certainly pop up whenever there is a discussion about words and meanings and tertiary prestige. But importantly, too, it's a name umbilically linked to Jamaica's football, especially as it relates to Kingston College and schoolboy football in particular.


The mention of Neville Oxford's name will always trigger discussion around the game, considering the fact that he was an instrumental member of arguably the best schoolboy football team in the history of the game in Jamaica.


That Kingston College Manning Cup group of 1964-65 swept everything in front of them, and so revered were they that few teams, if any other, across eras could be measured with that lot.


Some 50 years on, the name Oxford remains a football talking point, but in a more contemporary sense. Neville's brother, Karl Oxford, has a teenager grandson named Reece Oxford who is literally kicking up a storm in the English Premier League.


Reece, who will be 17 years old in December, made his debut for West Ham aged 16 and 198 days, making him the club's youngest-ever player, beating the record of 16 years and 221 days set in 1922 by Billy Williams.


He is the second-youngest player ever to play in the English Premier League.


Reece, who captains England's Under-17s, has attracted the interest of several big clubs, including Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal.


Not to be left out, the Jamaica Football Federation has made an early swoop with the hopes that it can lure the promising player to the Reggae Boyz set-up.


"JFF called already," Neville Oxford informed the Jamaica Observer with a chuckle. "But I tell them it don't look possible. He's gone already. He has already captained England Under-17," he noted.


That he represented England at the junior ranks would not make the teenager ineligible to represent Jamaica, according to FIFA rules.


Young Reece is the son of Christopher Oxford, who represented St Mary's High in track and field, and the grandson of Karl, who was KC's top scorer when they won the Walker Cup knockout for the very first time in 1963.


"Karl played manning Cup for KC in '62 and '63. He is a civil engineer and a low-keyed person. He is living in St Mary," said Neville Oxford.


Reece, who led England's Under-17s in the 2015 European Championship to the quarter-finals, scored in the penalty shoot-out win over Spain that ensured their passage to the FIFA World Cup in Chile later this month.


Reece made his Premier League debut on August 9 against Arsenal and was applauded for his outstanding display in the heart of the West Ham midfield, and Neville believes he has what it takes to be a top-class player.


"The sky's the limit. He had a very good game against Arsenal. He is a tall, languid type of player. He links well coming out of defence. The strength of his game is his passing ability. He made 38 passes and one bad pass," said Neville.


The Daily Mail, which described Reece as an ox, highlighted how he nullified Arsenal's World Cup winner Mezut Ozil for the 79 minutes he was on the pitch.


West Ham's Manager Slaven Bilic said "Reece Oxford has a presence; he's mobile and quick, and he can turn and pass the ball, not just square balls".


In a post-match interview, Arsenal's Manager Arsene Wenger described him as "convincing", while former midfield enforcer Graeme Souness said Reece played in a vital position to protect the back four and did it impeccably.


"For a 16-year-old, it borders on the ridiculous," Souness said.


 

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