The commentator’s voice gets louder, the stadium bellows. A fresh-faced, overwhelmed figure starts playing with his socks as a man with a clipboard offers instructions in his ear.
As the player steps onto the pitch, we’re informed of his age: just 16 years old. Crikey. And a club record, apparently.
Being a debutant, we tend to keep a closer eye on them throughout the proceedings, probably more so than others. We’re more forgiving if they misplace a pass, and celebrate louder if they score.
The final whistle blows and we're left with a marker for the start of greatness, or just what-might-have-been.
These are the young stars of the Premier League, the ones that were so good that they earned a call up despite not yet being allowed to drive.
Some fade into obscurity, others become world-beaters.
Here we take you through the top ten youngest ever players to grace a pitch in the elite division.
Harvey Elliott (16y, 30d) – Fulham vs Wolves (May 4, 2019)
It was a brief showing and yet it was a record-breaking one. At Molineux Stadium, Scott Parker’s decision to bring on Harvey Elliott as an 88th-minute substitute made the winger the youngest Premier League player to ever make an appearance.
Fulham were already relegated when they faced off against Wolves in the 1-0 away defeat.
Just over two months later, with just another 15 minutes under his belt, Liverpool decided to sign the promising star from the Cottagers for an undisclosed fee.
He made his debut for the Reds in their 2-0 win over Sheffield United in January 2020, again coming on as a late (90th-minute) sub.
It took until this season for Jurgen Klopp to issue the Englishman with his first full start, playing in behind Mohamed Salah in the centre-right role of a 4-3-3 during Liverpool’s 2-0 over Burnley at Anfield.
The 18-year-old made a further two appearances before he dislocated his ankle after a challenge from Leeds’ Pascal Struijk in a 3–0 away league win. He's now on the road to recovery.
Which player do you think forged the most successful career? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
Matthew Briggs (16y, 68d) – Fulham vs Middlesbrough (May 13, 2007)
Matthew Briggs was the youngest player ever to feature in the Premier League when he entered the pitch in 2007.
The Fulham left-back was handed the chance by Lawrie Sanchez, to create a record that stood for some 12 years.
It took three years for Briggs to get his first start, playing in Fulham’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. But there would be only 11 more times that the defender would feature in the elite division.
The now-30-year-old has been something of a journeyman, playing a number of games in the Football League before dropping to non-league level. Most recently he’s signed for semi-professional side Gosport Borough, but yet to play at the time of writing.
Isaiah Brown (16y, 117d) – West Brom vs Wigan (May 4, 2013)
Isaiah Brown was a hot prospect when he made his Premier League debut at just 16 for West Bromwich Albion. But the thrilling 3-2 defeat to Wigan at the Hawthorns would be his only league outing for the Midlands club.
There were some complications surrounding the compensation owed to the Baggies but he eventually moved to Chelsea a few months later.
At Stamford Bridge, amid seven loans, he made just one Premier League appearance for the Blues, making more so for Brighton in their inaugural 2017-18 campaign.
Now 24, Brown plays in the Championship for Preston, having signed a deal there over the summer. However, a ruptured Achilles during pre-season has meant that the attacking midfielder is yet to make an appearance.
Aaron Lennon (16y, 129d) – Leeds vs Tottenham (August 23, 2003)
Considering the furore generated by Aaron Lennon when he made his Premier League debut for Leeds, some may feel his career never quite hit the heights expected of him.
But the winger is comparably one of the most successful on his list, the only one of the top 14 youngest to debut to feature over 200 times in the competition.
In 2003, the 11-minute cameo he made against Tottenham broke the Premier League record at the time.
That said, Lennon still remains the youngest-ever player to provide an assist, something that came seven games later against Arsenal, age of 16 years, 199 days.
The 34-year-old is the third-youngest to represent the Three Lions at a national tournament. He currently plays for Burnley, having spent a single campaign outside England last year with Super Lig club Kayserispor.
Jose Baxter (16y, 191d) – Everton vs Blackburn (August 16, 2008)
Despite the well-known 2002 match in which Wayne Rooney came on at 16 years old to crash one on the inside David Seaman’s crossbar and beyond the goal-line, the Toffees’ youngest-ever to play in the Premier League is someone very different.
Jose Baxter came on against Blackburn Rovers in August 2008. He was 79 days younger than James Vaughan, the former Everton player, and the league’s youngest-ever scorer, and 106 days younger than the aforementioned Rooney.
Baxter’s career panned out a little differently to them, though. He spent four years at Everton, making just 15 appearances, before spells in League One, at Oldham Athletic and Sheffield United.
In 2015 he was given handed a five-month suspension after testing positive for ecstasy. Everton handed him a year-long contract but he only played for the under-23s during the spell.
His final club was Memphis 901 FC, an American club that plays in USL Championship, the US’ second-highest division.
The 29-year-old retired in August of this year.
Rushian Hepburn-Murphy (16y, 198d) – Aston Villa vs Sunderland (March 14, 2015)
Rushian Hepburn-Murphy came on to make his Premier League debut for Aston Villa as an 83rd-minute substitute for Christian Benteke during their 4-0 win over Sunderland.
With that, he became the second-youngest to ever make an outing for the Midlands club – but he made just two appearances in the Premier League.
After six seasons of being in the dark at Villa, the 23-year-old finally made the move to Pafos last year, a Cypriot football club.
Gary McSheffrey (16y, 198d) – Coventry vs Aston Villa (February 27, 1999)
Joining Hepburn-Murphy is Gary McSheffrey, who matches the age in which the former Villa player made a Premier League showing.
The forward appeared in Coventry City’s 4-1 win over Aston Villa, a game which was also the last time a club in English football’s elite division featured a starting XI consisting entirely of English players.
The left-winger made 162 outings for Coventry, his best seasons coming towards the end of his tenure in the Championship. The 39-year-old had spells with clubs such as Birmingham City, Nottingham Forest, and Leeds.
Now caretaker manager of Doncaster Rovers, McSheffrey enjoyed 549 appearances across the Football League and Premier League.
Reece Oxford (16y, 236d) – West Ham vs Arsenal (August 9, 2015)
Reece Oxford made his debut for West Ham United against Arsenal and thusly became the club’s youngest ever player, beating a record that stood since 1922. ( Billy Williams – 16 years, 221 days).
In the 2-0 win, the defender won the Man of the Match award and was even singled out for analysis and complements on Match of the Day.
Reece, now 23, spent five years with the Hammers but only made 17 appearances across all competitions.
Having been in Germany since 2017, it was just last season in which Reece started to feature in regular games, appearing 25 times for FC Augsburg.
Jack Robinson (16y, 250d) – Liverpool vs Hull (May 9, 2010)
Jack Robinson owns the record of the youngest player to feature in a league match for Liverpool.
A product of the Red's esteemed academy system, the defender debuted against Hull City, in what was Rafa Benitez’s final game in the dugout at Anfield.
Following his first-ever start in the Premier League, there was a gap of nine years and 55 days until he made his second showing, a record amount of time.
Indeed, almost a decade later he featured in a 0-0 draw for Sheffield United at Aston Villa in 2020.
Now 28 years old, the defender remains with the Blades until this day, but only makes sporadic appearances.
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Jack Wilshere (16y, 256d) – Arsenal vs Blackburn (September 13, 2008)
Best until last? Sort of. Jack Wilshere is undeniably one of the greatest English talents of the past 20 years.
But being stricken by injuries throughout his career hampered any chance he had of development. He made his Premier League debut as an 84th-minute substitute during a 4-0 away win against Blackburn.
In his subsequent loan spell at Bolton, he became their youngest-ever Premier League scorer in March 2010, scoring against West Ham at 18 years, 64 days.
He soon became a first-team regular at Arsenal, winning their Player of the Year award in the 2010-11 season – but things started to plummet soon after.
The 29-year-old is currently clubless however has seemed to have started picking up punditry work.
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