A 13-year old schoolboy has just made history by setting a new record as the youngest ever senior footballer in the United Kingdom, as a substitute forward for Glenavon in Northern Ireland.
At just 13 years and 329 days, Christopher Atherton made his first team debut against Dollingstown in the Northern Irish League Cup. The side's youngest ever player had an immediate impact in their 6-0 win, assisting the final goal with his first touch of the ball.
Tonight, Glenavon Academy player Christopher Atherton made his first team debut against Dollingstown in the League Cup. At 1⃣3⃣ yrs and 3⃣2⃣9⃣ days old, he became the youngest player in the UK to play in a first-class match.— Glenavon FC (@Glenavon_FC) September 13, 2022
Congratulations Christo!!👏🏼💙 pic.twitter.com/hypGdC5R7p
Atherton takes the record from Jordan Allan, who made his debut for Aidrie against Livingston in April 2013, at just 14 years and 191 days old.
Atherton missed out on becoming the youngest senior player in the entire world by just 10 days. This record is currently held by Souleymane Mamam, who debuted for Togo in a World Cup qualifier in May 2001, aged 13 years and 319 days.
Glenavon manager, Gary Hamilton, commented that the youngster was set to break the world record in April, but he was sadly absent for the final game of the season.
I had no doubt that if we got ahead in the game then I could bring him on because he was comfortable to train with the first team before the last match of last season. Only he had to go to watch Celtic with his Dad he would have played in that match as well, as it was the last match of the season and at that stage there was nothing to play for with seventh place already secured. We were planning on giving him his debut then which would have made him the youngest player in the world, but unfortunately he is just going to have to settle with being the youngest player in the UK.
The youngster received a Twitter shout out from the Northern Irish Football League after his impressive debut:
👏 Congratulations to @Glenavon_FC's Christopher Atherton, who made his first team debut against Dollingstown tonight aged 1⃣3⃣ yrs and 3⃣2⃣9⃣ days old to became the youngest ever player to play senior football competitively in the UK. pic.twitter.com/uQuK7XT2et— NI Football League (@OfficialNIFL) September 13, 2022
Unsurprisingly, Atherton is held in very high regard by the team's manager:
He is a joy to watch and is a great kid but the work he does away from training at Glenavon, and the dedication that he has to becoming a professional footballer, is unbelievable. That is what separates him from a lot of the kids at the academy. He works night and day at his game, he eats the right foods and he goes to bed at the right time.
Over the years Glenavon have developed a reputation for producing quality players from their academy in Northern Ireland, such as Mark Sykes currently at Oxford United, and Shayne Lavery at Blackpool.
Hamilton seems convinced that Atherton can play in any forward and attacking midfielder positions, and that he will soon move onto leagues in England or Scotland.
He is just such a special talent. There is a lot of interest in him from cross-channel clubs and I am not one bit surprised
Strangely enough, Glenavon managed an identical 6-0 scoreline in the same game against Dollingstown last August: