The English Premier League is widely regarded as one of the toughest leagues in the world. Players are under immense pressure to perform each week, and with the great riches on offer and such high stakes, it’s easy to see why managers might be more focused on fielding seasoned professionals rather than blooding youngsters. But that hasn’t stopped clubs from throwing precocious young talents into the mix. In most cases, their sheer talent meant their age and physical stature weren’t barriers and they were able to breakthrough and play at the highest level. As Sir Matt Busby once famously said, “if they are good enough, they are old enough.” Check out our list of the youngest players to turn out in the Premier League history below:
The Ten Youngest Players to Make a Premier League Appearance
10. Jack Wilshere – Arsenal – 16y 256d
Jack Wilshere was heralded to be the future of both Arsenal and England when he debuted in 2008. A slight yet immensely talented teenager when he debuted a few months shy of his 17th birthday, Wilshere had caught everyone’s eye with his performance for the U-18s. He got his debut in September 2008 as a late substitute for Robin Van Persie against Blackburn Rovers, replacing Cesc Fabregas as Arsenal’s youngest-ever Premier League player and fans were thrilled with what they saw. Wilshere initially justified the hype with some electrifying performances for both club and country. However, a string of injuries derailed his career. Still only 29, he plays for Bournemouth in the Championship.
9. Jack Robinson – Liverpool – 16y 250d
It is not uncommon for outgoing managers to leave after promoting a few youth products on their way out, and Jack Robinson was one such example. In his final game as Liverpool manager, in May 2010, Rafael Benitez promoted a 16-year-old Robinson to the first-team squad, bringing him on as a late substitute against Hull City. Robinson became Liverpool’s youngest player at that point, breaking a 36-year-old record that Max Thompson had set back in 1974. However, that would be the high point of his Liverpool career. He only made two more appearances – a substitute cameo and a start – in the Premier League before being sent on a couple of loan spells. After a few years spent playing in the lower divisions, Robinson returned to the Premier League in 2020, signing for Sheffield United.
8. Reece Oxford – West Ham – 16y 236d
Reece Oxford had been making waves in the youth ranks for a while when he made his first-team debut – he had appeared for West Ham’s U-18 team when he was still a U-15 player. After making his first-team debut in the Europa League in July 2015, he made his Premier League debut the next month, starting in a 2-0 win over Arsenal and playing 79 minutes. However, after an impressive start, things got a lot tougher for him, with West Ham sending him off on several loans as his form dipped. He finally left the club in 2019 after making just 8 Premier League appearances. Still only 22, he now plays for FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga.
7. Gary McSheffrey – Coventry – 16y 198d
One can find Gary McSheffrey playing non-league football these days, but much more was expected of him when he became the youngest-ever player to make his Premier League debut in 1999. The player, who came up through Coventry’s academy, made his debut for the club aged just 16 years and 198 days against Aston Villa. But despite the bright start, McSheffrey spent much of his career playing in the lower tiers of English football, only managing a full season in the Premier League once, with Birmingham City in 2007-08, when he managed a dismal return of 3 goals in 32 league appearances. McSheffrey also managed to play 20 games for England U20s but never was selected for the senior side.
6. Rushian Hepburn-Murphy – Aston Villa – 16y 198d
Hepburn-Murphy, a product of Aston Villa’s academy, made waves in 2015 when he made his Premier League debut for the senior side aged just 16 years and 198 days. The forward came on as a substitute as Villa beat Sunderland 4-0. However, his career did not kick on from there. He made just one Premier League appearance before Villa were relegated towards the end of the following season. If he expected that the club dropping down into the Championship would present more opportunities for him, that was not the case as he managed just ten appearances in three seasons for them and never managed to score a single league goal. After a couple of loan spells in League Two, where he did reasonably well, a loan at Championship outfit Derby County ended without him making a single appearance. Still only 22, he now plays for Pafos in the Cypriot First Division.
5. Jose Baxter – Everton – 16y 191d
Baxter’s career is a tale of what might have been. After joining Everton’s academy as a six-year-old, Baxter developed enough to be continuously linked with bigger clubs. After making his debut aged just 16 years and 191 days in 2008, big things were expected. However, an arrest for possessing cannabis in 2009 was an inkling of things to come. His career at Everton fizzled away to the point that he was released by the club in 2012, still only 20. But just as his career was stabilizing following fruitful spells at Oldham and Sheffield United, he failed a drug test and was banned for over a year. Everton attempted to rescue him by handing him a one-year contract, but that came to nothing. Still aged only 29, Baxter is currently without a club.
4. Aaron Lennon – Leeds – 16y 129d
Lennon made his debut for his boyhood club Leeds at 16 years and 129 days in 2003, becoming the youngest player to play in the Premier League at that point. However, Leeds were already in financial trouble and sold the pacy winger to Tottenham Hotspur in 2005 after they were relegated to the Championship. It was at Spurs that Lennon would make an impact, playing 266 league matches over ten years. With Spurs, he won the only trophy of his career – the 2007-08 League Cup – and built up a solid international career, earning 21 England caps. He then had stints at Everton and Burnley, the latter of which he left in 2020, bringing an uninterrupted 15-year spell in the Premier League to an end. Lennon now plays for Turkish club Kayserispor.
3. Isaiah Brown – West Brom – 16y 117d
After coming through West Brom’s academy, Brown made his debut for the team at the age of 16 years and 117 days in 2013, becoming, at the time, the second-youngest player in Premier League history. But he didn’t stay at the club for long. His precocious talent caught the eye of Chelsea scouts and the club pounced, paying a nominal fee (decided by a tribunal) for the transfer. However, Brown joined the army of loaned players at Chelsea, playing for seven different clubs over the next seven years. Now 24, Brown is still technically a Chelsea player but has only made a single competitive appearance for the Blues, a substitute appearance against West Brom in 2015. He now plays on loan for Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.
2. Matthew Briggs – Fulham – 16y 68d
Briggs joined Fulham at the age of ten and progressed quickly through the ranks. In 2007, when he was just 16 years and 68 days old, he became the youngest player in Premier League history when he came on against Middlesbrough. He would go on to hold that record for 12 years. However, Briggs’ Fulham career did not proceed as everyone hoped. He only made 13 league appearances before dropping down a division to play for Millwall in 2014. He then joined Colchester United in League One, then Chesterfield in League Two before a couple of stints in non-league football.
1. Harvey Elliot – Fulham – 16y 30d
Elliot became the youngest player in English Premier League history when he turned out for Fulham against Wolves in 2019. The English winger had progressed through Fulham’s academy and even made an appearance for them in the EFL Cup as a 15-year-old before making his league debut. Elliot’s talent did not go unnoticed, and just months after his league debut, he joined Liverpool for an undisclosed fee. He continued setting records there as well, becoming the youngest player to play for Liverpool when he made a substitute appearance in the EFL Cup against MK Dons. He then became the youngest to start for the club when he played against Arsenal in the following round. In May 2020, he made his English Premier League debut for Liverpool against Sheffield United and is currently on loan at Blackburn Rovers.