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Who Are The Youngest Athletes To Play In The Premier League?

Arsenal's Ethan Nwaneri made his Premier League debut at the tender age of 15. Here some of the other babyfaced pioneers.

By Andrew Woodin
Nwarneri and Martinelli applauding

Ah, to be young again. Endless summers, first loves and copious amounts of delectable sweets sure to rot one’s teeth out. What could be better? Though we’ve all yearned to relive our youth in some form or fashion, sadly, there’s no DeLorean to jettison us back to those by-gone days where the feeling of invincibility seemed to flow as fast and free as our dearth of responsibility.

While nostalgia and the novelty of adolescence feels like a mere distant memory for the majority of us who slog through our nine-to-five days with, at best, a half-cocked smile plastered across our soon-to-be wrinkled faces, for some like Arsenal’s Ethan Nwaneri who hear the call of the football early on, growing up couldn’t come soon enough.

During Arsenal’s 3-0 rout of Brentford over the weekend, Gunners manager Mikel Arteta decided that once his squad had all but secured victory, it was time to make history, sending Nwaneri out onto the pitch in the 92nd minute where the 15-year-old became the youngest footballer ever to play in a Premier League game. No pesky homework or curfews would sully the teen midfielder’s history-making debut, earning him heaps of praise from around the league and beyond. Though Nwaneri now owns the record of the youngest athlete to ever play in an EPL game, his achievement stands on the shoulders of past pitch phenoms who paved the way for his success.

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Here are some of the other tenderfoot pioneers.

Harvey Elliott | 16 Years and 30 Days

Nwaneri eclipsed
Harvey Elliot’s record who made his Premier League debut in May 2019 with Fulham in the squad’s 1-0 away loss to the Wolves. Former Cottagers boss Scott Parker felt Elliott’s speed and tenacity were worthy of an appearance for his already relegated side, and since his 88th minute substitution three years ago, the youngster has since carved out a spot for himself on Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Elliott made his first career start for the Reds just last year during Liverpool’s win over Burnley. 

Matthew Briggs | 16 Years and 68 Days

Matthew Briggs made history May 13, 2007 when he entered the match on behalf of Fulham during a 3-1 defeat to Middlesbrough. Remaining patient while he honed his fitness, Briggs would have to wait another three long years before he’d make his first career Premier League start when Fulham fell to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. After only playing 13 times during a span of five seasons, Briggs would eventually move down the leagues as he sought more playing time.

Izzy Brown | 16 Years and 117 Days

Though West Brom had high expectations following Isiah "Izzy" Brown’s Premier League debut against Wigan on May 4, 2013, a future for Brown and the Baggies failed to materialize as that was his only match with the club. Just a few months later, the young midfielder was sent to Chelsea, but alas, success at Stamford Bridge was even more elusive for Brown than before. Sadly, Brown would go on to make only one appearance for the Blues over the span of his eight-year tenure there, spending years out on loan. After suffering a ruptured Achilles while preparing for the season with Championship club Preston North End, the club terminated its deal with him. He's currently a free agent.

Aaron Lennon | 16 Years and 129 Days

As the record holder of the youngest Premier League player to notch an assist in a match,
Aaron Lennon has seen more success than most after making his EPL debut August 23, 2003 for Leeds. Despite only recording an 11-minute role that day on the pitch, Lennon’s career blossomed with the winger making 260-plus appearances for Tottenham Hotspur while also playing in the 2006 and 2010 World Cup for England.

Jose Baxter | 16 years and 191 Days

Jose Baxter surpassed the legendary striker Wayne Rooney and James Vaughan to become Everton’s youngest player ever when he made his debut August 16, 2008. Despite notching a Premier League goal at the tender age of 16, Baxter’s career fizzled out after the 2008-2009 season with the youngster never making a Premier League appearance outside of his teens.

Reece Oxford | 16 Years and 236 Days

In his debut performance for West Ham on Aug. 9, 2015,
Reece Oxford beat Billy Williams’ epic record from nearly 100 years ago in 1922 to become the Hammers’ youngest player to ever grace a Premier League pitch. That day, Oxford earned himself "Man of the Match" honors in West Ham’s stunning 2-0 victory over Arsenal, yet despite his early success, Oxford would go on to make only seven additional appearances for his squad, with his final Premier League entry coming in January 2018 against Crystal Palace. 

Jack Robinson | 16 Years and 250 Days

Since his debut for Liverpool May 9, 2010 in the club’s 0-0 draw against Hull City, Jack Robinson still holds the record as the Reds’ youngest footballer to play in a Premier League match. His first career start took place in April 2011 in Liverpool’s 5-0 victory over Birmingham City, and his second EPL start occurred for Sheffield United in the club’s 0-0 draw at Aston Villa. According to
The Analyst, Robinson’s nine-year and 55-day gap in starts between the two clubs is a record for the longest time between the first two starts of any Premier League outfielder in history.

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