Currently in year 9 of secondary school, Christopher Atherton etched his name in footballing folklore as he became the youngest player to feature in a first-team game in the UK footballing circuit. Atherton was brought on as a substitute in Northern Irish semi-pro outfit Glenavon’s 6-0 thrashing of Dollingstown recently.
Atherton came on as a late replacement for Jack Malone in the 75th minute to mark his debut at Mourneview Park. His player-manager Gary Hamilton chose to let him on the pitch at the age of 13 years and 329 days old.
The decision eventually paid dividends as Atherton managed to bolster his team’s charge against Dollingstown by recording an assist with what marked his first touch on the ball after making his way onto the pitch. The 13-year-old helped set the shot up for Matthew Snood for Glenavon’s sixth and final goal.
Glenavon FC subsequently took to social media to commemorate their young star’s achievements.
“Tonight, Glenavon Academy player Christopher Atherton made his first team debut against Dollingstown in the League Cup. At 13 yrs and 329 days old, he became the youngest player in the UK to play in a first-class match. Congratulations Christo!! Also, not to mention, his first touch of the ball tonight was an assist! What an amazing debut!!”
With his efforts for Glenavon, Atherton broke a record that had stood resolute for a whopping 42 years.
The previous record was set by Eamon Collins at the age of 14 and 323 days during an Anglo-Scottish Cup game against Kilmarnock while sporting the colours of Blackpool way back in September 1980. His appearance against Kilmarnock marked his only outing for the club.