Much has been made of the of the lack of faith in the youth system at West Ham United by the club’s chairman, David Gold. He infamously tweeted out about how Chelsea won the league while not playing any teenagers, ignoring that Hull City, for example, played no teenagers as well and were relegated anyway.
With young defenders Declan Rice, Reece Oxford, and Reece Burke all needing minutes, and with the lack of support from the upper management at the London Stadium, there is an opportunity for some of these players to go out on loan to gain experience. And with Kyle Bartley’s depature leaving a huge hole at central defender, Leeds United have an opportunity to take one of these young players on loan.
West Ham's Reece Oxford is set to join Borussia Monchengladbach on a season-long loan [Daily Mirror] pic.twitter.com/extTwdW5Me— Ironwork Tours (@IronworkTours) June 2, 2017
However, both Reece Burke and Declan Rice are still available to possibly go out on loan. Burke spent much of the season on loan at Wigan Athletic, but was recalled near the end of the season after suffering an injury. Burke went on to appear for the West Ham U-23 team which won promotion to the higher division of the reserve league. Burke is 20 years old, and will likely not get a crack at starting time in the senior West Ham squad next season, with Angelo Ogbonna, Winston Reid, and Jose Fonte all signed to big money deals to play at centre back for the Hammers, with midfielder Chekhou Kouyate also able to play in the defense. Additionally, West Ham legend James Collins could play another season for the East London club.
3⃣2⃣ | Reece Burke— Everyday West Ham (@EverydayWestHam) May 1, 2017
West Ham apps: 12 pic.twitter.com/7lhxoeEY3A
That U-23 team was captained by another young West Ham defender, Declan Rice. The 18 year-old Rice made his senior debut for West Ham in the last game of the season against Burnley, coming on in the 91st minute. He had been selected to travel with the senior club as a substitute a number of times this season, but he finally made his debut at Turf Moor. Additionally, Rice was called up to the senior Ireland squad after a number of very impressive displays in the youth teams for Ireland, even winning the U17 player of the year back in March.
Despite these achievements, it is doubtful that Rice will feature for the senior West Ham squad for the same reasons that Burke will find it difficult to break through. West Ham have a number of senior players in defense, and the members of management at the club, along with the manager Slaven Bilic, seemingly opposed to giving young players a chance to feature in the senior team for anything besides short spells and time sitting on the bench as an unused substitute, Rice will likely need to go out on loan to gain valuable first-team football.
Make no mistake, landing Declan Rice on loan would be a great deal, but also would be difficult. West Ham might want to keep him closer to home (although likely not at Reading again) so another London club might have an advantage. The team could also keep Rice in the PL2 team for another season, captaining the team in its first year in the Premier League 2 top division.
Either of these players would be a great deal for Leeds. While Burke or Rice would be a risk, Kyle Bartley looks like he is not going to be available for loan from Swansea City again and after a relegation scare, the Swans may be unwilling to sell him on to Leeds. Getting a partner for Pontus Jansson has to be a priority for the club this summer, and if funds are being used to address other positions, grabbing a young player or two that needs first-team football who won’t get it at their home club could be a deal that might pay off for the Whites.