Christopher Atherton, a 13-year-old schoolboy from Northern Ireland, wrote his name into the history books on Tuesday evening when he became the youngest ever senior footballer in the United Kingdom.
Still only in Year 9 at school, Atherton smashed the previous record by almost a full year as he came on as a substitute for semi-professional outfit Glenavon in their 6-0 thrashing of Dollingstown in the Northern Irish League Cup.
Per BBC Sport, Atherton, aged just 13 years and 329 days, was given the call from the bench by Glenavon player-manager Gary Hamilton in the 75th minute – and wasted little time seizing his opportunity.
With his very first touch, Atherton provided the assist for Glenavon’s final goal of the evening, scored by midfielder Matthew Snoddy.
Who previously held the record of being the UK’s youngest footballer?
Prior to Atherton’s record-breaking cameo on Tuesday, Irishman Eamon Collins had held the record for 42 years.
Collins was aged 14 and 323 days when he represented Blackpool in an Anglo-Scottish Cup game against Kilmarnock on 9 September 1980, according to Balls.ie.
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That appearance would be Collins’ sole outing in a Blackpool shirt. He did, however, go on to have a decent career in the lower reaches of the English footballing pyramid, representing the likes of Colchester and Exeter.
There’s a strong belief at Glenavon that their prodigy can make a far bigger impact in the game.
Naturally, much of the post-match discussion revolved around Atherton’s piece of history, with Glenavon boss Hamilton spending the first three minutes of his interview for Glenavon’s YouTube channel singing the youngster’s praises.
Video: Glenavon manager praises Christopher Atherton after he makes UK football history
“He’s a great kid. I’ve had the pleasure of watching him for the last seven or eight years,” began Hamilton.
“The work he does away from Glenavon and the dedication he has to becoming a professional footballer is unbelievable. That’s what separates him from a lot of kids at the academy.
“He’s the best player I’ve ever seen at his age… He’s come on there tonight and he doesn’t give the ball away once.”
The evening could have been even more special for Atherton had the Dollingstown ‘keeper not thwarted him late on.
“He caught it well,” said Hamilton of Atherton’s chance. “The goalkeeper makes a great double save. That would have been the icing on the cake with his first touch of the game being an assist. He’s a special talent.”
Is Christopher Atherton now the youngest senior player in the world?
No. Per Fan Banter, it is claimed that the global record now belongs to 11-year-old Eric Godpower Marshall who played for Liberian side Gar’ou against Haifa FC last year.
Officially, though, 12-year-old Bolivian Mauricio Baldivieso, who played for Club Aurora against La Paz in July 2009 holds the title.
Harvey Elliott is currently the Premier League’s youngster ever player, having made his debut for Fulham at just 16 years and 30 days old.
Atherton still has two years and 65 days to chase down that particular accolade – and judging by his manager’s comments, he’ll have every intention of trying to do so.
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