‘I was at Tottenham for a while, but they did not want me’
West Ham midfielder Reece Oxford, who became his club's youngest ever first-team player on Sunday, said he was rejected by Tottenham Hotspur before he joined the Hammers at the under-13 level.
The 16-year-old midfielder, rated one of the best prospects in England, had a splendid game in midfield as West Ham earned a surprise opening weekend victory at Arsenal.
"I was at Tottenham for a while, but they did not want me, and I went to West Ham, which was the best option for me," Oxford was quoted as saying by the British media. "I was a striker back then (at Spurs).
"The (West Ham) youth academy is great. They like to push players, we have a few youngsters playing under-21s, which is good.
"Last season I was on the bench a few times, so I expected to be around the team again this season, but not starting against Arsenal."
Oxford, who was deployed as a defensive midfielder against Arsenal, justified the faith West Ham manager Slaven Bilic put in him by nullifying the threat posed by a formidable Arsenal midfield.
"(Bilic) asked me to sit and talk to everyone to help get them into position, not to let Arsenal catch us out on the break, to keep it simple and not try to do too much," Oxford, who has already captained the England Under 17s, added.
"The manager said my performance was good, it was a dream debut for me. I will just go back to celebrate with my mum and dad, my family. (And) I have got Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's shirt."
Oxford is not the youngest Premier League debutant at 16 years 236 days. That was Matthew Briggs, who was 68 days beyond his 16th birthday when he played for Fulham at Middlesbrough in 2007.
He was also praised by his manager and teammates including midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate for his display against Arsenal.
"It is unbelievable, that at 16-years-old he is playing for West Ham, so easily with no stress," Kouyate said. "Before the game, I told him 'I believe in you'."