Ethan Nwaneri becomes youngest Premier League player at 15 but what happened to the other starlets?


On Sunday, Arsenal’s Ethan Nwaneri wrote himself in to the history books by breaking the record for the Premier League’s youngest player aged 15 and 181 days. 

The England under-17 international managed a minute of action on his history-making debut, and although he barely managed a touch on the ball, it is a day he will never forget.  

A name that not even the keenest Gunners fans will be familiar with, Nwaneri took to the field in a 3-0 away win over Brentford. 

But does a debut at a young age necessarily translate into a glittering career at the top of the heights of the English game? What happened to the other teenage sensations? Where are they now?

Here, Sportsmail talks you through the ten youngest players to ever play in the Premier League and whether they ever managed to live up to the potential that saw them take to the field at such a young age.

Ethan Nwaneri, 15, became the youngest-ever Premier League player on Sunday September 18

The teenager came off the bench in stoppage time for the Gunners to replace Fabio Vieira

The teenager came off the bench in stoppage time for the Gunners to replace Fabio Vieira

10. Jack Robinson, Liverpool (16 years, eight months, seven days)

And England under-21 international, Jack Robinson was the last ever player to be introduced under Rafa Benitez, coming on for Ryan Babel in a dire 0-0 draw with Hull on the final day of the 2009/10 season. 

In doing so Robinson became the youngest player to ever feature for the Reds in their long and illustrious history, but the defender was never able to break into the first team with just 11 appearances in four years at Anfield. 

After loans to Wolves and Blackpool, the defender dropped to the Championship with QPR, Huddersfield, Nottingham Forest before returning to the top flight with Sheffield United to help them finish ninth in 2019-20, playing six games. 

Two of Jack Robinson's 11 Liverpool games came in their 2012-13 Europa League campaign

Two of Jack Robinson’s 11 Liverpool games came in their 2012-13 Europa League campaign

The England under-21 international now plays his football with Sheffield United

The England under-21 international now plays his football with Sheffield United

9. Reece Oxford, West Ham (16 years, seven months, 24 days)

Reece Oxford is an anomaly on this list as he made his debut from the start, rather than being given a few seconds off the bench, and did so in style as Slaven Bilic’s West Ham saw off Arsenal with a 2-0 win at the Emirates in 2015-16. 

The versatile defender debuted at defensive midfielder and made eight appearances in total for the Hammers, before moving to the Bundesliga as so many young English stars have begun to do, and currently plays for Augsburg. 

His time with the Bavarians has been punctuated by injury, but since the start of 2021-22 he has become a regular feature at centre-back, managing a total of 77 games and three goals for the German outfit. 

Reece Oxford impressed on his debut in a 2-0 away win for West Ham against Arsenal

Reece Oxford impressed on his debut in a 2-0 away win for West Ham against Arsenal

The English defensive midfielder moved to Augsburg in 2018 where he has played 77 matches

The English defensive midfielder moved to Augsburg in 2018 where he has played 77 matches

Gary McSheffrey played for Coventry in 1999

Gary McSheffrey played for Coventry in 1999

=7. Gary McSheffrey, Coventry City (16 years, six months, 14 days)

Surprisingly, No 8 and No 7 on this list made their first appearances at the exact same age, with Gary McSheffrey making his bow in Coventry City’s 4-1 hammering of local rivals Aston Villa in February 1999, 2944 days before Nwaneri was even born.

McSheffrey’s debut may have been fleeting, coming on in the 90th minute, but he went on to rack up an impressive 280 appearances for City, scoring 73 goals and assisting 21 more in 10 years across two spells. 

The journeyman played for 11 different clubs in his career at all four professional levels of English football, as well as Eastleigh in the National League and Rossington and Frickley in the ninth and 10th levels of the domestic game before calling it a day on a 21-year playing career. 

=7. Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, Aston Villa (16 years six months, 14 days)

McShefferey was almost 33 when Rushian Hepburn-Murphy first took to the field for Aston Villa in March 2015, in a rare 4-0 win over Sunderland in a season that Villa managed just 38 points to narrowly avoid relegation. 

The young striker came on for Christian Benteke in that game, and was still on the books at Villa Park until 2020, when he left for the Cypriot League, turning out for Paphos FC. 

Five goals and 23 games later, Hepburn-Murphy returned to English football where he signed for Swindon Town in September 2022, though he is yet to play for the Robins.  

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy came on in the 83rd minute as Aston Villa beat Sunderland in 2015

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy came on in the 83rd minute as Aston Villa beat Sunderland in 2015

6. Jose Baxter, Everton (16 years, six months, 19 days)

Jose Baxter just squeezes into sixth spot on the list after coming on as a substitute on the opening day of the 2008-09 season as Everton lost 3-2 to Blackburn Rovers, and made his first start the following week. 

But the attacking-midfielder’s career suffered a series of setbacks, and after leaving Everton in 2012 as a free agent, he spent time at Oldham Athletic and Sheffield United before incurring a 12-month drugs ban before rejoining the Toffees. 

A return to Oldham was followed by a bizarre move to Memphis 901 FC of the USL Championship in America’s second-tier. Baxter hung up his boots in 2021 after eight months without a club at just 29, admitting he had not reached his potential. 

Jose Baxter came on for his debut against Blackburn Rovers in a 3-2 opening day defeat

Jose Baxter came on for his debut against Blackburn Rovers in a 3-2 opening day defeat

Aaron Lennon began his career at Leeds

Aaron Lennon began his career at Leeds

5. Aaron Lennon, Leeds (16 years, four months, seven days)

In stark contrast to Baxter, Aaron Lennon is a player who very much made it in the Premier League, spending 16 seasons of his 18-season career in the top flight after making his debut for Leeds against Tottenham in 2003.

Though he started at Leeds, it is for Spurs that Lennon made his name, with the winger playing 364 games for the north London club and winning the League Cup in 2008. 

Lennon is now a free agent after leaving Burnley at the end of last season, and if Nwaneri can manage half the games the former Spurs man racked up in the Premier League, he will surely retire happy.  

But it was with Tottenham he played the majority of his football, featuring 364 times for Spurs

But it was with Tottenham he played the majority of his football, featuring 364 times for Spurs

4. Izzy Brown, West Brom (16 years, three months, 27 days)

Izzy Brown might have only played twice in the Premier League, but he certainly knew how to make an impact after picking up a yellow card on his debut, coming on in the 86th minute of West Brom’s final day 3-2 defeat to Wigan in 2012-13.

The second youngest player in the league’s history on his debut, Brown was quickly snapped up by giants Chelsea, where he would go out on loan seven times before joining Preston on a free transfer in 2021. 

Brown left the Lilywhites at the end of last season and is another one without a club, but was part of the Blues side that won the Premier League and League Cup double in 2015, though he only played 11 minutes in eight years at the club.  

Izzy Brown managed only 11 minutes of football for Chelsea despite an eight-year spell

Izzy Brown managed only 11 minutes of football for Chelsea despite an eight-year spell

Brown (back left) played alongside Andreas Christensen and Fikayo Tomori at Chelsea

Brown (back left) played alongside Andreas Christensen and Fikayo Tomori at Chelsea

3. Matthew Briggs, Fulham (16 years, two months, seven days)

The first of two Fulham players, Briggs made his debut in 2007, taking over the mantle of youngest to ever do so in the Cottagers’ 3-1 defeat to Middlesbrough on the final day of the season. 

Briggs racked up an impressive 15 clubs at various different levels in his career including Fulham in the Premier League, non-league sides Gosport Town and Coggeshall and Danish second-tier outfit Vejle Boldklub.

And the defender is also one of the few to make this list who has been capped by his country, playing 15 games for Guyana and scoring once, having captained the side on three occasions in 2021. 

Matthew Briggs debuted in the league in 2007 for Fulham before playing for 13 other clubs

Matthew Briggs debuted in the league in 2007 for Fulham before playing for 13 other clubs

Briggs has also been capped 15 times internationally by Guyana, captaining the side too

Briggs has also been capped 15 times internationally by Guyana, captaining the side too

2. Harvey Elliott, Fulham (16 years, one month)

Harvey Elliott broke Briggs’ record almost exactly 12 years to the day as the youngest player to ever play in the Premier League for Fulham, before also becoming the youngest starter for Liverpool, so highly-regarded is the youngster. 

After joining Liverpool in 2019 for £1.5million, Elliott has since gone on to play 29 times and score once, and was part of the sides that won the league title and Club World Cup and UEFA Supercup in 2020, and the League Cup and FA Cup in 2022.

Already an outside shout to make Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, Elliott is surely set for a long and illustrious career at the very top of the game.  

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Harvey Elliott has established himself in Liverpool’s first team with nine games this season

1. Ethan Nwaneri, Arsenal (15 years, five months, 28 days)

Nwaneri broke Elliott's record by 214 days

Nwaneri broke Elliott’s record by 214 days

Nwaneri broke the record in Sunday’s win over Brentford, edging past Elliott’s gauntlet by 214 days to become a history-maker irrespective of what he goes on to achieve in the game. 

But he will be keen to show that he is not just a statistic, and has already been fast-tracked through the ranks at the Gunners by Mikel Arteta, after the Spanish manager saw enough to be impressed in training. 

In doing so, he knocked another Gunners star, Jack Wilshere,  out of the top 10, and with Arteta clearly prepared to take a chance on youth, the England midfielder could be in line for plenty more game time in a jam-picked Arsenal schedule.





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