With Winston Reid suspended for Stoke’s visit to the London Stadium on Saturday, Slaven Bilic will be looking to his squad to fill the void in his three-man defence.

The obvious choice would be James Collins – the 33-year-old Welshman already having featured eight times in Claret and Blue this season – but what about Reece Oxford?

When James Tomkins departed for Crystal Palace in the summer, it seemed the 17-year-old wonderkid was set to build on an impressive debut season which saw him make 12 first team appearances in all.

But Oxford hasn’t made a league appearance for the first team this season, despite impressing in pre-season and representing a rare shining light in a torrid Europa League qualifying campaign.

Oxford did appear amongst the substitutes for West Ham’s last minute home triumph against Sunderland last month, but it never seemed likely that he would feature.

With the downturn in form suffered by the Hammers this season, Slaven Bilic may well be reluctant to call upon Oxford given his unquestionable inexperience.

By this time last season, the Hammers were sitting pretty in third in the Premier League table with the young defender already having made three times as many first team appearances as he has this term.

The arrival of the versatile Havard Nordtveit appears to have added a further obstacle to Oxford’s path in to the side – despite the exit of Tomkins and the loan departure of Reece Burke to Wigan.

There are now rumblings that Slaven Bilic could be eyeing Sunderland’s Lamine Kone in an attempt to shore up his side’s leaky defence.

Kone’s potential arrival would only further delay the development of Oxford, who regularly hits the headlines for attracting interest from the giants of English football.

There’s still time for Oxford to build on his impressive debut campaign last season – but all the signs are there that his rise into the starting XI might happen slower than first thought.

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