West Ham’s academy manager Terry Westley has hailed youngster Reece Oxford as one of the best centre-backs in Europe, reports the club's official website.
Westley, also head of coaching and player development, spoke of his excitement after tying Oxford and other academy prospect Joe Powell down to professional contracts.
He believes both have the ingredients to become first-team players in the next four years but Oxford has a big future ahead of him.
“Having seen him play for England, as captain across Europe, he is one of the best centre-backs in Europe. He's got a big future and we hope to see them both one day in the first team,” he told the official club website.
The Hammers academy is famed for producing home-grown stars and can boast the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Joe Cole as their own.
Article continues below
They are a club that takes pride in developing players and they are keen to keep on this tradition by ensuring Oxford turns into the superstar everyone believes him to be.
West Ham could do with a world class centre-back now but the 15-year-old is still some way off from breaking into the first-team, although when he does it will be a proud moment for everyone involved with the club.
Both Oxford and Powell have been tipped to be in the Hammers first-team squad in the next four years which will be a new beginning for the east London outfit in their new home.
"They now have a great opportunity to become first team players sometime in the near future.
"We look at it in terms of four year cycles, like the Olympics. You concentrate on London 2012, and then focus on Rio 2016. The gold medal for us is young players playing first team football in the new stadium,” Westley added.
West Ham haven’t seen academy stars turn out in the starting XI since Mark Noble and James Tomkins, who are still first-team regulars for the club, although they will hope their new prospects will follow in their footsteps.
STATEMENT OF INTENT
By securing the signing of such a high profile youngster as Oxford the Irons have made a statement to other clubs that they are not going to let their best players leave which speaks volumes of their ambition.
Everyone at the club is behind West Ham getting back to the culture of producing their own and in Oxford they could have another Terry, Ferdinand or Tomkins on their hands.
Powell is also highly regarded in the academy as an attacker with tremendous potential and Westley is confident both will become Hammers regulars.