Leeds United were forced to name a 15-year-old on the bench for their Premier League clash with Arsenal on Saturday night.
Marcelo Bielsa had very limited options going into the fixture at Elland Road with no less than 11 players – including nine regulars in the starting XI – unavailable due to injuries.
As such, Leeds had no option but to call upon some of their academy players to fill their bench against the Gunners with Archie Gray proving the youngest of them all at age 15.
Archie Gray on the Leeds bench
The Leeds starlet would have become the Premier League‘s youngest ever player if Bielsa had brought him on during the 4-1 loss with no 15-year-old having every played in the division.
And while Gray was ultimately forced to watch Arsenal run riot for 90 minutes from the bench, the prospect of Premier League history had us combing through the record books nonetheless.
Football experts might know that Harvey Elliott is the youngest player in Premier League history, but we bet that even the biggest trivia junkie wouldn’t be able to name the competition’s most youthful XI.
Leeds United 1-4 Arsenal Match Reaction (Football Terrace)
Historic Premier League youngsters
But alas, in light of Gray’s flirtation with history, we’ve sought to answer that question by compiling the youngest ever Premier League XI by the age they were when they made their debut.
Using data from Transfermarkt, we’ve inserted the youngest ever player from each position into the line-up within a 4-3-3 formation to present the starting XI that Gray would have strutted into.
We’re not being arbitrarily strict with positions, but do bear in mind that these players are the most youthful to have debuted in each spot and not simply the 11 youngest in Premier League history, period.
Youngest ever Premier League XI
However, enough with the disclaimers and housekeeping because we have a historic line-up to work through and you can check out the Premier League’s youngest ever XI in full down below:
GK: Neil Finn (West Ham United) – 17 years, 0 months, 3 days
Thrown into Premier League action on New Year’s Day in 1996 due to a goalkeeping crisis at the club, Finn remains the youngest shot-stopper to have ever pulled on the gloves in the competition.
He went on to play for Dorchester Town, Aldershot Town and Romford.
RB: Stephen Carr (Tottenham Hotspur) – 17 years, 0 months, 28 days
The only other player in the line-up to have been older than 17 years old at the time of his debut, Carr went on to amass more than 250 games for Spurs before moving to Newcastle United and Birmingham City.
CB: Matthew Briggs (Fulham) – 16 years, 2 months, 7 days
Until Elliott ripped up the record books, Briggs was the incumbent youngest player in Premier League history when he made his first-team debut for the Cottagers in May 2007.
Briggs has since represented the likes of Millwall, Colchester United, Chesterfield, Barnet, Watford and Bristol City, while also playing international football for Guyana.
CB: Reece Oxford (West Ham United) – 16 years, 7 months, 24 days
Who remembers when Oxford marked his Premier League debut with an absolute masterclass in West Ham’s 2-0 win at Arsenal on the opening day of the 2015/16 season?
The 23-year-old now plies his trade in the Bundesliga with Augsburg via loan spells at Reading and Borussia Mönchengladbach.
LB: Jack Robinson (Liverpool) – 16 years, 8 months, 7 days
When Robinson came off the bench in Rafael Benitez’s final game in charge of the Merseyside giants, he became the youngest player to have ever pulled on the famous red jersey.
He nows plays for Sheffield United having left Anfield for Queens Park Rangers in 2014.
CM: Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) – 16 years, 8 months, 12 days
Arsenal’s youngest ever league debutant when he first took to the field in 2008, Wilshere went on to enjoy a successful career at Emirates Stadium with almost 200 appearances for the club.
Sadly, Wilshere never became the world-beating midfielder that his Barcelona masterclass once suggested, but the current free agent is still loved by fans in north London regardless.
CM: Jose Baxter (Everton) – 16 years, 6 months, 9 days
Baxter surpassed the record of teammate James Vaughan to become Everton’s youngest ever senior player during the 2008/09 season and went on to play 15 times for the club.
He hung up his boots earlier this year at the age of 29 having most recently played for Memphis 901 FC.
CAM: Izzy Brown (West Bromwich Albion) – 16 years, 3 months, 27 days
Brown completed an exciting move to Chelsea just a matter of weeks after becoming the second-youngest player in Premier League history on his Baggies debut against Wigan Athletic in 2013.
Sadly, though, Brown only ever went on to make a single appearance for the Blues and now plays for Preston North End via stints at clubs including Brighton & Hove Albion and Leeds United.
RW: Aaron Lennon (Leeds United) – 16 years, 4 months, 7 days
One of the most successful players to feature in the line-up, Lennon kicked on from his early Leeds debut to play in the Champions League for Tottenham and amass 21 caps for England.
ST: Rushian Hepburn-Murphy (Aston Villa) – 16 years, 6 months, 14 days
Replacing Christian Benteke in the dying moments of a 4-0 win at Sunderland, Hepburn-Murphy is the youngest striker to have appeared in England’s top-flight since the 1992 rebranding.
The former England U20 player now earns a living in Cyprus with Pafos FC having spent time away from Villa Park on loan at Cambridge United, Tranmere Rovers and Derby County.
LW: Harvey Elliott (Fulham) – 16 years, 1 month, 0 days
The youngest player in Premier League history at the time of writing, Elliott had no sooner made history in Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 Fulham when Liverpool asked for his signature.
And the 17-year-old still looks like a top-level talent having established himself as a regular starter for Liverpool in the 2021/22 season until he picked up a serious injury against Leeds.
Could Gray join the XI?
Talk about a historic line-up.
And while he might not have made a record-breaking debut in Leeds vs Arsenal, Gray still has time on his side when it comes to taking Elliott’s crown as the Premier League’s youngest ever player.
It’s hard not to feel old when you consider that the Leeds ace was born in 2006, but it means that the England U16 star has roughly 100 days to immortalise himself in English football’s record books.
But even if usurping Elliott proves to be a bridge too far, you wouldn’t put it past Gray to take the place of one of the players in our most youthful of Premier League line-ups. Watch this space.