Reece Oxford says he has no regrets over leaving West Ham, insisting he saw no future for himself at the London club.
Oxford became the Premier League’s second youngest ever player when he made his debut aged 16 and 198 days and big things were expected of him having been labelled the next Rio Ferdinand.
He signed a bumper contract on his 18th birthday, but things did not work out at the Hammers and he had loan spells at Reading, Borussia Monchengladbach and Augsburg, whom he eventually joined on a permanent deal in 2019.
The utility player, now 22, said he felt “uncomfortable” in England and has had no second thoughts about leaving the Hammers, who are in Champions League contention this season.
“I don’t regret it. I’m happy for West Ham, they’re having an unbelievable season. It was just my time to go,” Oxford said.
“I don’t know if my pathway was blocked. But a player knows when he is not going to progress any more within a team.
“I wasn’t going to force my way through or cause problems, I felt the best option for me was to go somewhere else and look at what’s best for my career.
“I’m not taking anything away from the club. Slaven Bilic and his staff, other managers pushed me, they helped me a lot. I felt there was just not a pathway for me anymore.
“I just thought it wasn’t going how I planned it in England. I didn’t feel comfortable in England.
“I felt like I needed to go abroad and I felt like Germany was the right place because I’d been there before. I liked the training, the mentality and the culture.
“I felt this was the step forward for me and my career and to be able to kick on.”
Oxford is one of a number of English youngsters making their way in the Bundesliga, with Jadon Sancho, Jude Bellingham and Ryan Sessegnon, on loan from Spurs, also excelling.
And he thinks that Sancho and Bellingham’s progress makes it the perfect place for his development and national team ambitions.
“I think players like Sanch, Ryan (Sessegnon) and Jude, if you are playing then you get the recognition and people will come looking and seeing that you are playing in another league and starting in your team,” he said.
“So I feel it is the best chance for me to push into the senior squad if I am playing here.
“Of course, that is the next step. I am trying to get some game time here and hopefully I can step into the senior squad and get a chance. That is the next step.”
The move to Germany, which came just before the coronavirus pandemic, has helped Oxford grow as a person. He is learning the language and has also had to develop other life skills.
“I feel like as a person I have developed a lot, everyone says they have felt like I have grown up more. Living by myself I have had to learn other stuff, especially now with coronavirus, which has been difficult.
“I have had to learn to cook, learn to do everything by myself, but I feel like that has worked. At the beginning with the football side it was a bit slow but this season I have kicked on a bit and have got a few games.”
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