Arsenal youngster Ethan Nwaneri became the youngest player to play in the English Premier League last weekend. The 15-year-old Gunners came on as the substitute in his side’s 3-0 victory over Brentford FC. Over the years, there have been players who fall into the list of young debutants in the history of the league including familiar faces like Jack Wilshere and Aaron Lennon. Let’s take a look at how their careers went on after making waves as young prospects.
Matthew Briggs, Fulham (Aged 16 Years and 68 Days)
Former Fulham youngster Matthew Briggs was once a Premier League’s youngest-ever player, after making his debut as a schoolboy for Lawrie Sanchez’s side in a 3-1 defeat at Middlesbrough on the final day of the 2006/07 season.
He went on to make 30 appearances for the west London club – including 12 during the 2011/12 Europa League campaign under Martin Jol – but was released when Fulham were relegated in 2014 and joined non-league Maldon & Tiptree at the start of this season after struggling to make his mark during short-term spells with Chesterfield and Barnet in 2017/18. After spending time in Denmark playing for HB Koge and Velje, the 31-year-old now plays for a semi-professional club in England called Gosport Borough.
Eligible to represent both England and Guyana, Briggs has represented England at under-16, under-17, under-19, under-20, and under-21 levels, and has represented Guyana at the full international level 15 times.
Izzy Brown, West Brom (16 Years and 117 Days)
Izzy Brown made his Premier League debut way back in May 2013 for West Brom. Despite being regarded as a hot prospect but he suffered a persisting cruciate ligament injury which has seen his talent not reaching full potential.
The former England youth team captain joined Chelsea later that summer and, after winning a host of age-group titles, continued his development on loan at Dutch side Vitesse, Rotherham, and Huddersfield in the Championship and with Brighton in the Premier League. He is currently a free agent after being released by North Preston End last season.
Aaron Lennon, Leeds (16 Years and 129 Days)
Remember the speed winger with dazzling skills? Aaron Lennon made his Premier League debut at White Hart Lane in 2003 for Leeds and went on to spend 10 seasons with Tottenham, winning the League Cup in 2008 and playing a key role during their run to the Champions League knockout phase in 2010/11.
Lennon, who won 21 England caps and featured at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, moved to Everton in 2015 and, after battling mental health problems things were no longer the same. He did travel to Turkey to revive his career before joining Burnley, which released him in June. He is currently a free agent with no club.
Jose Baxter, Everton (16 Years and 191 Days)
Jose Baxter became Everton’s youngest-ever player when he made his debut in a 3-2 defeat at Goodison Park to Blackburn Rovers on the opening day of the 2008/09 campaign but after making just six more top-flight appearances over the next four seasons he left to pursue first-team football in 2012.
After impressing at League One Oldham he joined Sheffield United but a positive drugs test for ecstasy in 2015 saw him suspended and eventually released in May 2016. Seven months later, a year-long deal with Everton helped Baxter re-find form and fitness and he returned to Oldham – now in League Two – at the start of last season. He later plied trade for USL outfit Memphis 901 FC before hanging his boots in 2021.
Gary McSheffrey, Coventry (16 Years and 198 Days)
At one stage, Gary McSheffrey became the youngest player to appear in the Premier League in February 1999 when he made his debut for his hometown team Coventry in a 4-1 win over Aston Villa. The winger enjoyed a successful spell for Sky Blues getting over 150 appearances for the in both the top flight and second tier before joining Birmingham in 2006.
McSheffrey, who had won League One on loan at Luton in 2005, twice won promotion to the Premier League with Blues and also helped Leeds, Scunthorpe, and Doncaster to promotions during a career that has seen him represent 14 sides – including current non-league outfit Frickley Athletic. Now at the age of 40, McSheffrey is making strides as the manager and currently coaches English League Two side Doncaster Rovers.
Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, Aston Villa (16 Years and 198 Days)
Aston Villa youth academy graduate Rushian Hepburn-Murphy announced himself in the senior team during a 4-0 win at Sunderland in March 2015 and has represented England at numerous youth levels.
His career hasn’t ticked the way he has predicted. He has spent most of his career representing teams like Cambridge United, Tranmere Rovers, and Derby County. Despite trying to get his career away from his country when joining the Cyprus side Pacos FC but injuries kept him out of the game before being released. He recently joined English League Two side Swindon Town.
Jack Wilshere, Arsenal (16 Years and 256 Days)
The time Jack Wilshere made Arsenal’s first team appearance in a 4-0 win at Blackburn in September 2008, a lot was good things were expected of him. Despite the midfielder’s exciting potential in those early days, injuries have badly hampered his progress.
He then later appeared for teams like West Ham and FC Bournemouth but neither of those spells became successful. For England, he managed to represent them 34 times scoring two goals before retiring from football in July this year. He is currently coaching the Arsenal U18 side.