When Reece Oxford made his Premier League debut for West Ham United against Arsenal on the opening weekend of the 2015/16 Premier League weekend, very few expected the 16-year-old to make a mark. However, the Hammers recorded a resounding 2-0 victory at the Emirates with the 16-year-old impressing one and all and repaying the faith put in him by new manager Slaven Bili?.
But Oxford is not the youngest ever player to play in the Premier League. In fact, he is only the second youngest player to make his EPL debut at 16 years and 236 days. The teenager who stands at close to 6’3” looked unfazed as he commanded a strong Gunners midfield which had the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil.
The defender, deployed as a defensive midfielder, played 79 minutes, made three tackles, two interceptions and one clearance in a performance that drew a lot of praise.
"If Messi was in front of me, I'd be more fazed than Reece," Bilic had said, according to BBC. "People were asking: 'Are you sure he is 16?'
"It was going to be a risk but he has got something. I am very proud of him. He is a part of this new generation."
The official Premier League website released a list of the youngest players to make their debut and there are some familiar names. The youngest starter ever was Jose Baxter who played for Everton when they faced West Brom at the start of the 2008/09 season. The young forward was only 16 years and 198 days old at the time. In fact, he had come on as a substitute a week earlier and almost helped Everton take all three points when his header from a Phil Jagielka cross was off target.
Everton continue the trend of giving youngsters their Premier League debut with Wayne Rooney coming in third in the list. He is the only other player to make his debut at 16 (16 years and 297 days old) when he played against Tottenham Hotspur in August 2002.
The young Englishman is easily the most successful player in the list and had a memorable season scoring 8 goals in all competitions in his very first season. He is also the third youngest EPL goalscorer after James Vaughan and James Milner (all three were aged 16 years when they scored their first goal in the league).
Oxford also displaced Neil Finn as West Ham’s youngest player to play in the EPL. Finn made his debut against Manchester City just two days after he celebrated his 17th birthday in January 1996.
Other famous names include midfielder James Milner, who first started for Leeds United against West Ham aged 17 years and 34 days, striker Emile Heskey, who started his first game aged 17 years and 55 days for Leicester City against QPR way back in 1995, and Gareth Barry, who started his first EPL game for Aston Villa against Arsenal in 1998 aged 17 years and 75 days.
|1||Jose Baxter||Everton||West Brom||2008/09||16||198|
|2||Reece Oxford||West Ham||Arsenal||2015/16||16||236|
|4||Neil Finn||West Ham||Man City||1995/96||17||2|
|7||James Milner||Leeds United||West Ham||2002/03||17||34|
|8||Emile Heskey||Leicester City||QPR||1995/96||17||55|
|9||Gareth Barry||Aston Villa||Arsenal||1997/98||17||75|
|10||Rob Bowman||Leeds United||Man Utd||1992/93||17||79|