A lifelong Hammer from a West Ham-supporting family, Reece Burke made great strides after joining the East London club at the age of nine.
After progressing through the youth ranks, the versatile defender – who can operate at right-back as well as his usual central role – made his Under-18s debut as a 16-year-old schoolboy during the 2012/13 season before going on to make a total of eight appearances for the Hammers’ Under-21 side in the same campaign.
Tall, strong and accomplished, Burke enjoyed an impressive 2013/14 campaign at all age levels, making 19 appearances in the U18 Premier League South as the Hammers finished second in the league table. He also made his Premier League 2 debut, appearing seven times in total including five starts.
On top of that, he made his international debut – for England U18s – in a 4-0 win over Hungary in October 2013, before being handed his first-team debut at the age of just 17 years and four months when coming on as a second-half substitute in an FA Cup Third Round tie at Nottingham Forest.
Burke appeared again the following season, making his home debut and featuring for the full 120 minutes of West Ham’s League Cup clash with Sheffield United at Upton Park before signing his first professional contract as a West Ham player in October 2014.
A Premier League debut followed towards the end of the 2014/15 campaign, with Burke featuring for the full 90 minutes in a 0-0 draw away at Queens Park Rangers. A week later the defender was involved in another clean sheet on his home Premier League bow – a 1-0 victory over Burnley. He featured six times in total in 2014/15, including four starts in the Premier League, aged just 18, and was named as the Young Hammer of the Year in 2015 after also impressing in the U18 Premier League and Premier League 2 campaigns.
2015/16 started off with three appearances in the Europa League, featuring in both legs against FC Lusitans, before West Ham’s 2-2 draw at home to Astra Giurgiu. Following the Hammers’ exit from the qualifying stages of the competition, Burke joined League One side Bradford City on a season-long loan, making his debut in a 0-0 away draw against Barnsley in August 2015.
Burke played every minute of the first 12 games of his loan period, scoring his first Bantams goal in a 2-1 win against Oldham Athletic in September 2015, and established himself as a key member of the Bantams’ side that qualified for the play-offs with a fifth-place finish.
An impressive run of form at the back saw the youngster help the Bantams keep eight clean sheets in eleven games in March and April 2016 and was a key factor in the centre-back picking up seven accolades at Bradford City’s End-of-Season Awards Night, including the Player of the Year award, after scoring twice in 36 appearances during his time at Valley Parade.
He gained further European experience with West Ham at the start of the 2016/17 campaign before heading out on loan once again, this time joining Wigan Athletic at the end of August. However, he managed just ten Championship appearances – and one goal – in a Latics shirt as his time at the DW Stadium was disrupted by a series of injuries.
After returning to full fitness, Burke’s next temporary switch saw him head out to newly-promoted Bolton Wanderers ahead of the 2017/18 second-tier campaign, where he was reunited with Phil Parkinson who had previously taken him to Bradford, and made 15 appearances and scored one goal in the first half of the season.
Returning to the London Stadium after Bolton’s 1-0 victory over the Tigers on New Year’s Day, the centre-back featured in all three of David Moyes’ side’s Emirates FA Cup fixtures in January 2018, and even scored his first Hammers goal in a 1-0 win over Shrewsbury Town. He was back at the Macron Stadium for the second half of the campaign though and continued to impress for the Trotters, making a further 11 appearances as Parkinson’s side successfully retained their Championship status on the final day of the season.
On the international front, Burke has represented England at Under-18, Under-19 and Under-20s levels, making a total of ten appearances for his country.