Premier League 16-year-old debutants: Where are they now?
By Peter Smith
Last Updated: 08/12/18 8:54am
James Milner made his Premier League debut as a 16-year-old in November 2002 - and is now set to make his 500th appearance in the competition this Saturday when Liverpool travel to Bournemouth.
The midfielder has enjoyed a successful career since those early days, winning two Premier League titles with Manchester City, picking up 61 England caps and is now leading Liverpool's pursuit of the league crown at the age of 32.
But how have the other 17 players to have made their Premier League debut as a 16-year-old fared? We take a look at what they've achieved and where they are now…
Matthew Briggs, Fulham (aged 16 years and 68 days)
Former Fulham youngster Matthew Briggs holds the title of the Premier League's youngest-ever player, after making his debut as a schoolboy for Lawrie Sanchez's side in a 3-1 defeat at Middlesbrough on the final day of the 2006/07 season.
He went on to make 30 appearances for the west London club - including 12 during the 2011/12 Europa League campaign under Martin Jol - but was released when Fulham were relegated in 2014 and joined non-league Maldon & Tiptree at the start of this season after struggling to make his mark during short-term spells with Chesterfield and Barnet in 2017/18.
Izzy Brown, West Brom (16 years and 117 days)
Izzy Brown made his Premier League debut way back in May 2013 for West Brom but, still aged 21, remains a hot prospect as he recovers from a cruciate ligament injury.
The former England youth team captain joined Chelsea later that summer and, after winning a host of age-group titles, continued his development on loan at Dutch side Vitesse, Rotherham and Huddersfield in the Championship and with Brighton in the Premier League. Currently continuing his rehab on loan at Leeds this season.
Aaron Lennon, Leeds (16 years and 129 days)
Aaron Lennon made his Premier League debut at White Hart Lane in 2003 for Leeds and went on to spend 10 seasons with Tottenham, winning the League Cup in 2008 and playing a key role during their run to the Champions League knockout phase in 2010/11.
Lennon, who won 21 England caps and featured at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, moved to Everton in 2015 and, after battling mental health problems, remains a Premier League player at 31 with Burnley.
Jose Baxter, Everton (16 years and 191 days)
Jose Baxter became Everton's youngest-ever player when he made his debut in a 3-2 defeat at Goodison Park to Blackburn Rovers on the opening day of the 2008/09 campaign but after making just six more top-flight appearances over the next four seasons he left to pursue first-team football in 2012.
After impressing at League One Oldham he joined Sheffield United but a positive drugs test for ecstasy in 2015 saw him suspended and eventually released in May 2016. Seven months later, a year-long deal with Everton helped Baxter re-find form and fitness and he returned to Oldham - now in League Two - at the start of last season.
Gary McSheffrey, Coventry (16 years and 198 days)
Gary McSheffrey became the youngest player to appear in the Premier League in February 1999 when he made his debut for his hometown team Coventry in a 4-1 win over Aston Villa. The winger went on to make over 150 appearances for the Sky Blues in both the top flight and second tier before joining Birmingham in 2006.
McSheffrey, who had won League One on loan at Luton in 2005, twice won promotion to the Premier League with Blues and also helped Leeds, Scunthorpe and Doncaster to promotions during a career which has seen him represent 14 sides - including current non-league outfit Frickley Athletic.
Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, Aston Villa (16 years and 198 days)
Aston Villa youth academy graduate Rushian Hepburn-Murphy first appeared in the senior team during a 4-0 win at Sunderland in March 2015 and has represented in England at numerous youth levels.
The 20-year-old forward has made four appearances for Villa in the Championship this season.
Reece Oxford, West Ham (16 years and 236 days)
West Ham's youngest-ever player, Reece Oxford burst onto the scene with an eye-catching performance in a 2-0 win at Arsenal in August 2015, but despite making six more Premier League appearances that season the Londoner has since found opportunities limited in the capital.
There have been loan spells to Reading and Borussia Monchengladbach but the next step for Oxford, now 19, is unclear, with his last appearance for West Ham's first team coming in an August 2016 Europa League tie.
Jack Robinson, Liverpool (16 years and 250 days)
Former England U21 international defender Jack Robinson made his league debut for Liverpool in Rafa Benitez's final game in charge, a 0-0 draw at Hull City at the end of the 2009/10 Premier League season.
However, he struggled to break into the first team and after impressing during loan spells with Wolves and Blackpool in the Championship, Robinson signed for QPR in 2014. An immediate loan to Huddersfield followed, before a knee injury sidelined him for a year. Now at Nottingham Forest.
Jack Wilshere, Arsenal (16 years and 256 days)
Arsenal academy ace Jack Wilshere is into his 11th Premier League season after making his debut for the Gunners in a 4-0 win at Blackburn in September 2008, but despite the midfielder's exciting potential in those early days, injuries have badly hampered his progress.
Now at West Ham after leaving Arsenal on a free transfer in the summer, the 26-year-old, who has 34 caps for England, is aiming to reignite his career after a string of knee and ankle problems.
Mark Platts, Sheffield Wednesday (16 years and 263 days)
Mark Platts was still a trainee with Sheffield Wednesday when he made his Premier League debut as a replacement for Chris Waddle in February 1996 during a 2-1 win at home to Wimbledon. But while another run out soon followed he didn't make a single appearance for the club as a full-time professional.
Instead, there were brief spells with Torquay United and Worksop Town before retirement in 2001, just six years after his first of two Premier League appearances.
Angel Gomes, Manchester United (16 years and 263 days)
England youth team captain Angel Gomes made his Premier League bow as a substitute for Wayne Rooney on the final day of the 2016/17 season, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to appear in the top flight.
That remains his solitary Premier League appearance, with 18-year-old Gomes currently impressing in United's youth team.
James Vaughan, Everton (16 years and 270 days)
James Vaughan made a goal-scoring Premier League debut in a 4-0 home win over Crystal Palace for Everton in April 2005 but a major knee injury at the start of the following season ruled him out for a year and injuries became a recurring problem.
Vaughan joined Premier League Norwich in 2011 but was regularly sidelined. There have since been encouraging Championship campaigns at Huddersfield and 24 goals in 37 appearances for Bury in League One but the forward has struggled to fulfil his potential. Now with Championship Wigan.
Wayne Rooney, Everton (16 years and 297 days)
Wayne Rooney made his Premier League debut in August 2002 against Tottenham, but it was his stunning last-gasp winner against Arsenal in October of that year which truly announced his arrival.
Following a big-money - and controversial - transfer to Old Trafford, Rooney would go on to become Manchester United and England's all-time top scorer, win five Premier League titles and the Champions League, among a host of other honours. After a brief return to Everton, now playing in the MLS with DC United.
James Milner, Leeds (16 years and 310 days)
The star of Leeds' academy, James Milner made his Premier League debut for the first team in November 2002 and has gone on to become a familiar figure in the top flight in the subsequent 16 years.
Former Newcastle and Aston Villa midfielder, Milner - who earned 61 caps for England - twice won the title with Manchester City and is currently playing a key role in Liverpool's challenge at the age of 32.
Francis Jeffers, Everton (16 years and 335 days)
Francis Jeffers made his Everton debut in December 1997 and four years later was snapped up by Arsenal. However, injuries hit and despite scoring regularly for England's U21 side and winning one England cap, Jeffers played only a bit-part role in Arsenal's success in that era before leaving for Charlton in 2004 after a loan spell back at Everton.
In total, Jeffers went on to represent 11 clubs - stretching from Blackburn and Sheffield Wednesday to Newcastle Jets in Australia and Floriana in Malta. Now a coach in Everton's academy.
Jonathan Leko, West Brom (16 years and 344 days)
Jonathan Leko made his Premier League debut in April 2016 for West Brom and signed his first professional contract with the club soon after.
Still just 19, Leko had a loan spell with Bristol City last season and, after continuing to impress for the Albion youth team, signed a new deal with the Hawthorns club this summer.
Andy Campbell, Middlesbrough (16 years and 353 days)
Andy Campbell went on to make over 50 league appearances for his hometown team, Middlesbrough, after making his Premier League debut for them in April 1996. The striker scored just four league goals for them, though, amid four loan spells.
A transfer to Cardiff in 2002 started well but further loan deals came next before spells in Scotland and non-league. Campbell has since had a managerial role with West Auckland Town in New Zealand.
Jack Rodwell, Everton (16 years and 364 days)
Highly-rated Jack Rodwell made his Premier League debut for Everton against Sunderland in March 2008 and after impressing at Goodison Park made a big move to Manchester City in August 2012. But instead his career has become defined by his four years with Sunderland.
The former England international endured a nightmare run of 39 Premier League starts without a win for the struggling Black Cats and was a highly-paid fringe player as the club slipped out of the top flight and down through the Championship into League One. His contract was cancelled this summer and he's now re-building at Blackburn.