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Youth, courage and success

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The Premier League is the biggest league in the footballing world. It has witnessed some great moments throughout its three-decade existence. We have seen all kinds of players, young and old, playing to the best of their abilities. However, it is ever so stunning when a novice outplays the veteran on the pitch. When that happens, the future of the game looks so bright. However, for that to happen, teams must trust youngsters and give them a chance.

Recently, top teams have started giving more and more chances to players from their youth academies. This shows how much promise they show and reflects on how far they can be part of that team. If not for the club they are playing currently, a much-needed chance with a debut at the highest level can help talented players catch the attention of other clubs. Manchester United have an incredible and much talked about record when it comes to utilising their own. There has been at least one homegrown player in every United matchday squad since the streak began in October 1937 and remains unbroken.

We have seen some very young players make their debut in the Premier League over the years. Here we discuss the top 10 youngest Premier League players ever. 

1. Ethan Nwaneri – 15 years, five months, 28 days

Ethan Nwaneri was promoted to Under-21s training for Arsenal, after quickly demonstrating his class at the Under-18 level,  whose academy manager Per Mertesacker gave Arteta glowing reports from his time at youth level. Martin Odegaard’s injury opened up a spot for Nwaneri to travel with the first-team squad for the trip to Brentford, and Arteta felt it appropriate for the Englishman to experience a taste of top-flight football with his dominant side 3-0 to the good. His record is looking like it would be difficult to break anytime soon. 


2. Harvey Elliott – 16 years, 30 days

Harvey Elliott became one of the youngest players in the competition’s history when he debuted for Fulham in May 2019 against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Elliott came on for the final two minutes, and such was his talent that Liverpool quickly moved to sign Elliott just a few months later. Still very young, Elliott has now established himself as a key member of Jurgen Klopp’s first team squad and earned himself a bumper new contract at Anfield back in August.


3. Matthew Briggs – 16 years, two months, seven days 

Fulham went down to Boro on the final day in 2006-07 – losing 3-1 – but 16-year-old Matthew Briggs came on for Moritz Volz in the 77th minute, becoming the Premier League’s youngest-ever player. Briggs held the record for 12 years and even sat for his GCSE Exams just 24 hours later. The Guyana international can now be found plying his trade in the Southern League Premier Division South with Gosport Borough.


4. Izzy Brown – 16 years, three months, 27 days

Izzy Brown was just 16 years young when he made his top-flight debut for West Bromwich Albion in a 3-2 loss to Wigan Athletic in 2013. The forward was a late substitute for Youssouf Molumbu but failed to influence the game in the dying minutes, although his rise was enough to earn him a move to Chelsea later that year. Brown made just one appearance for Chelsea and was loaned out countless times. He is now a free agent after departing Preston North End this summer.


5. Aaron Lennon – 16 years, four months, seven days

Aaron Lennon made his Premier League debut all the way back in 2003 against the Lilywhites for Leeds United. Lennon was a 77th-minute substitute for Mark Viduka in that 2-1 defeat before earning a move to Tottenham in the summer of 2005, eventually totalling 30 goals and 79 assists in 364 games for the North London club. Despite featuring regularly for Burnley in the 2021-22 Premier League, the 35-year-old is now without a club following his exit from Turf Moor, but he is seemingly not done and dusted at the top level just yet.


6. Jose Baxter – 16 years, six months, nine days

Jose Baxter made his top-flight debut for Everton in a 3-2 defeat to Blackburn on the first day of the 2008-09 season. He is the first player on this list to suffer defeat on his debut. The 16-year-old attacking midfielder came on for the final 11 minutes at Goodison Park with the score at 2-2, but David Moyes’s decision backfired as Blackburn scored a 93rd-minute winner through Andre Ooijer. After being released by Everton in 2012, Baxter plied his trade for Plymouth Argyle, Sheffield United, Oldham Athletic and Memphis before retiring last year. 


7. Rushian Hepburn-Murphy – 16 years, six months, 14 days

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy is another player to come out on the correct end of the scoreline during his Premier League debut. He was just 16 when he made a seven-minute cameo in Aston Villa’s 4-0 win at Sunderland in March 2015. Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor had both scored braces in the first half before Tim Sherwood turned to Hepburn-Murphy, who still remains Villa’s youngest-ever player in the Premier League.


8. Reece Oxford – 16 years, seven months, 24 days

The now-23-year-old was fielded from the first whistle by Slaven Bilic on the opening day of the 2015-16 season, where goals from Cheikhou Kouyate and Mauro Zarate saw West Ham United clinch a memorable London derby success over Arsenal. Oxford played 79 minutes of that victory at the Emirates, and following a couple of loans to the Bundesliga, he found his new home and now plays at Augsburg.


9. Jack Robinson – 16 years, eight months, seven days

Former Liverpool youngster, Jack Robinson was just 16 years of age when he made his Premier League debut for the Reds against Hull City in May 2010. With nothing left to play for on the final day of the season, Rafael Benitez was not shy to field a second-tier side for that 0-0 draw, as Robinson replaced Ryan Babel in the 87th minute. The centre-back made a total of 11 appearances for Liverpool before leaving in 2014. He can now be found at the backline at Sheffield United, playing 17 Premier League games in 2019-20 and 2020-21.


10. Jack Wilshere – 16 years, eight months, 12 days

Jack Wilshere held the record of being Arsenal’s youngest-ever player in the Premier League before Ethan Nwaneri, coming on at the age of 16 against Blackburn Rovers in September 2008. Wilshere was brought on to replace Robin Van Persie in the 84th minute and serves as a timely reminder of the English star boy who never quite fulfilled his potential. After calling it quits on a short-lived and injury-hit career earlier this year, the 30-year-old has since returned to London Colney to take up the role of manager for the club’s Under-18s.


Aditya Kochhar
A true Red Devil, who has idolised David de Gea for more than a decade. He loves watching conspiracy documentaries, writing poetry and food. He claims to be a God-tier FIFA player and can be seen occasionally ranting while playing it.

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