Northern Ireland schoolboy becomes UK’s youngest senior footballer at 13

Northern Irish schoolboy Christopher Atherton became the UK’s youngest senior footballer on Tuesday night at the age of 13. The schoolboy broke a record that had stood for 42 years when, aged 13 years and 329 days, he came on as a second-half substitute. for Glenavon.

Surprisingly, Atherton’s first touch was an assist when he netted his side’s sixth goal as they beat Dollingstown 6-0 in the League Cup. The striker is almost exactly a year younger than Britain’s previous youngest professional player, Eamon Collins, who made his Blackpool debut aged 14 years and 323 days in 1980.

Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton has known Atherton for eight years as he played for the same team as his son Callum.

“I don’t think any of us knew [the record] but a tweet was posted before kick-off and one of the staff noticed it,” Hamilton told Sky Sports News. “But he debuted because of his ability and an award for the way he played across the age groups.

“He’s only in his third year at school. We brought him in to train with the first team last year and he never seemed out of place. At such a young age to be able to come train with men and look so comfortable, every player has commented on how scary it is for a teenager.

“But it also takes us away from a lot of hard work. He is an accomplished young individual in his school work and his football. When you are like that, you have a chance to become what you want to become.

“We just want to keep him on the ground. He has two wonderful parents. I know his dad Stephen very well, he was YTS at Hearts and it didn’t work out so he knows football can change very quickly.

“We just want to give him the path, the right encouragement and try to point him in the right direction. He has to keep his feet on the ground, which I have no doubt he will.

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