It was announced this week that West Ham United’s Reece Oxford has been sent on loan to Borussia Monchengladbach for the season. He’ll be hoping a year of competitive Bundesliga action will help his development and improve his chances of breaking into the Hammers starting eleven. Should more future Premier League stars follow his example and try their hand in Europe’s top leagues?
Reece Oxford became West Ham’s youngest ever player to make a competitive start as he burst onto the scene in sensational style, helping the East London club to a 3-0 win. Weeks later, he became the Premier League’s second-youngest starter, impressing fans with his ball retention – but since that fantastic debut, his starts have been few and far between.
The Edmonton-born youngster has been loaned out to Borussia Monchengladbach for the season and will be one of just a handful of young British players plying their trade in Europe’s top leagues.
He’s likely to face Scotland’s Oliver Burke, who joined RB Leipzig from Nottingham Forest 12 months ago and helped his side secure an unexpected second place finish in Germany’s top flight. Burke commanded a fee of around £6m but his decision to move to the Bundesliga was met with some cynicism by pundits who believed he should have set his sights on a transfer to a Premier League club instead.
The FA are keen on developing younger players and improving the English national team as a result. There has been success for the Under 20s already this summer whilst the Under 21s have been progressing well and are much fancied by football gambling columnists to reach the final of the European Championships. The Young Lions were odds-on for success against Poland in their third group game of the tournament.
Recent Liverpool recruit Dominic Solanke became the 15th player to compete in the Eredivisie on loan from Chelsea and impressed in the Dutch top flight. His highlights include a second-half brace against Groningen on his return from injury.
Izzy Brown looks set to join Huddersfield on a permanent basis and he also excelled in at the Arnhem club during a recent loan spell. Whilst Chelsea have been criticised for offering a lack of first team opportunities to their younger squad members, they are at least sending them out to compete in a number of top European leagues.
It would have been easy for Oxford to join a mid-table Championship club and go through the motions or simply sit on the bench for another ten months but he now has the opportunity to put himself firmly in the shop window.
Having to immerse yourself in another culture and the possibility of homesickness kicking in could be some of the factors preventing many young players leaving the UK to find regular competitive football. Nathaniel Chalobah and Lewis Baker have both spoken positively about their experiences in Italy and the Netherlands respectively and it’s important that young players leave their comfort zone once in a while.
Some of the best players in the world took a calculated gamble in their younger years (Griezmann, Pogba etc) and moved to a different country in order to gain experience and it’s important that more young English hopefuls follow Oxford’s example and test their mettle in unfamiliar climes.