With experienced players and world-class stars constantly being recruited to the English top-flight, making your Premier League debut in your teenage years is never easy. But when it finally arrives, it’s unquestionably a day to remember for most youngsters out there.
Some of the baby-faced debutants have certainly gone on to achieve great things in the game, but for various different reasons, such success stories are seemingly outweighed by the many prodigies who have failed to live up to their potential.
We take a look at the top ten youngest Premier League debutants and where they are now.
10. Jack Wilshere – Arsenal – 16y 256d
A career that started out with so much hope, the tale of the midfielder’s footballing journey is an unfortunate one indeed. Wilshere joined the Gunners aged nine, and showed such promise in the club’s academy that he was promoted to the first team at just 16.
Arsene Wenger then handed the youngster his debut from the bench in a top-flight encounter with Blackburn, where he took over from Cesc Fabregas as the club’s youngest ever league player. The 28-year-old has since joined West Ham in a bid to get his injury-ravaged career back on track.
9. Jack Robinson – Liverpool – 16y 250d
Another to have started out at the top only to slowly fade away. The left-sided defender worked his way through the ranks at Melwood before being given his Premier League debut in Rafa Benitez’s final game in charge against Hull, coming on as a substitute to become the club’s youngest ever player.After spells at Queens Park Rangers and Nottingham Forest among others, Robinson now finds himself back in the big time, both defending and attacking under the watchful eye of Chris Wilder at Sheffield United.
8. Reece Oxford – West Ham – 16y 236d
The sky really was the limit for the young defensive midfielder, who signed his first professional contract with the Hammers just after his 16th birthday. Not long after, he was immediately thrown into the action, starting in a 3-0 Europa League qualifying win against Andorran outfit Lusitanos.
His Premier League debut came the following month, when he starred in a 2-0 victory over Arsenal in August 2015. After such a promising start, his career is another to have slightly derailed, and he now lines out for Bundesliga outfit Augsburg.
7. Gary McSheffrey – Coventry – 16y 198d
The forward became the Premier League’s youngest ever player back in 1999 when he featured for Coventry against neighbours Aston Villa, a debut given to him by boss Gordon Strachan. Eight years and 53 goals later, he switched to Steve Bruce’s Birmingham.
Journeyman McSheffery then went on to play for a whole host of clubs across all the divisions of English football, with his 20-year playing career only recently coming to an end to be replaced by a venture into coaching.
6. Rushian Hepburn-Murphy – Aston Villa – 16y 198d
Another who has failed to reach the heights expected of him, the teenage striker replaced Christian Benteke in a 4-0 league win at Sunderland five years ago. Since then, however, three disappointing successive loan spells at Cambridge, Tranmere and Derby have left Villa with no option but to recently release the 21-year-old.
But he’s wasted no time in finding a new club in the form of Cypriot First Division side Pafos, teaming up with former Crystal Palace man Jason Puncheon in the Mediterranean. It is, however, Hepburn-Murphy who is stealing the limelight, scoring seven goals in the club’s recent 9-0 pre-season victory over Riga FC’s B-team.
5. Jose Baxter – Everton – 16y 191d
Bootle-born Baxter was living the dream back on the opening day of the 2008/09 Premier League campaign when he came off the bench against Blackburn, becoming Everton’s youngest ever player in the process.
Spells at Oldham, Sheffield United and Plymouth Argyle followed, with the Toffees even offering him an ultimately unsuccessful lifeline somewhere in between. His ten-year stay in England has now come to an end, with a 28-year-old Baxter now playing for USL Championship side Memphis 901, whose part-owner is none other than Everton legend Tim Howard.
4. Aaron Lennon – Leeds – 16y 129d
Local lad Lennon joined the Leeds Academy as a youth, and it didn’t take him long to make his mark in Yorkshire, breaking McSheffrey’s record when he came off the bench in a narrow loss to future club Tottenham Hotspur in August 2003.
The tricky winger went on to have a stellar career at White Hart Lane – forcing his way into the England national team setup – before enjoying spells at Everton and Burnley. Now 33, his contract at Turf Moor has recently expired, with a return to former club Leeds potentially on the cards as he looks to extend his lengthy stay in the top-flight.
3. Isaiah Brown – West Brom – 16y 117d
One of the many young stars who finds himself on the infamous list of Chelsea loanees, Brown first made the news in 2013 when he appeared for the Baggies in the last four minutes of a 3-2 league loss to Wigan, becoming the second-youngest Premier League debutant.
It was still enough to earn him a move to Stamford Bridge, but despite seemingly impressing Jose Mourinho at a stage, the 23-year-old is now into his sixth loan spell away from the Blues, finding the net just once this season as his temporary club Luton narrowly escaped relegation from the Championship.
2. Matthew Briggs – Fulham – 16y 68d
Left-back Briggs dominated the headlines on the last day of the 2006/07 season when he took over from Lennon as the Premier League’s youngest player. A 13-minute cameo for the 16-year-old against Middlesbrough was accompanied by his GCSE exams the following day.
The teenager now has an endless list of clubs to his name, with Non-League football and even work on a construction site the new normal for the defender. Despite the decline, Briggs has enjoyed a successful international career with Guyana, helping his country to qualify for last summer’s Gold Cup.
1. Harvey Elliot – Fulham – 16y 30d
Twelve years on from Briggs, the west London club handed out another teenage Premier League debut, this time to an even younger up and coming talent. Exciting winger Elliott was given a couple of minutes in his side’s loss at Wolves at the end of the 2018/19 campaign, becoming the league’s youngest ever player and breaking the previous record by 38 days.
It’s only been just over a year since he burst onto the scene at Craven Cottage, but Elliott has gone on to impress under Jurgen Klopp at Anfield, signing his first professional contract with the Reds last month after playing a role in their first league title in 30 years.