The 16-year-old West Ham defender Reece Oxford began the season with plaudits, a Premier League debut against Arsenal and the record as the youngest player ever to don the claret and blue.

Now, a few months on, he celebrated his 17th birthday (Wednesday, December 16) with another milestone – his first professional contract with the Irons.

Since that electrifying debut when West Ham came away from the Emirates with a headline-grabbing three points, Oxford has been a regular in the first team showing the benefit of the academy system .

Oxford will feel more at home in training now as the club moves from Chadwell Heath to Rush Green, which is where the academy players were put through their paces – all watched over by images of their illustrious predecessors Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand and current club captain Mark Noble.

Oxford told the club’s website : “I hope I can be on one of those pictures one day. I would love to follow in their footsteps.

“I am over the moon to have signed a professional contract. I have been waiting for over a year now to become a pro and I am really happy.

“Sometimes players can fall off a bit when they sign a big deal, but I just want to get better and progress as a player.”

“Mark Noble is on my case in training, but for good reasons as he wants me to become a better player. He doesn’t want me to become sloppy or take my foot off the pedal. He wants me to keep progressing.”

Meanwhile West Ham, who face Swansea on Sunday (December 20) have acquired an unusual new supporter. WWE legend Triple H, who is in London for the NXT UK Takeover event at Wembley Arena next Wednesday (December 23) extolled the virtues of the resilient Irons.

He told ITV News : “West Ham is probably the closest to what we do, with the passion of their fanbase and their loyalty, right? That’s the closest to what we do.”

And he picked out Andy Carroll as the Hammer most likely to make it in the ring. “He is tall, likes to play it tough with the opposition and has the right looks with the long hair. He could be interesting.”