Pompey Teenage Eleven15.03.18
A team made up of fresh-faced whippersnappers, but, as the song sort of goes, are these teenage dreams so hard to beat?
At the tender age of 16 years, nine months and 27 days the Legend was a fresh-faced pup when he first donned the gloves for the Blues. The clean sheet on debut was an achievement, albeit in the final game of the 1977/78 season when we were already relegated. By the time of his 801st appearance he was little less fresh around the face.
The West Wittering defender joined Pompey at 12 and he made his full Pompey debut five years later coming on as a sub for Greg Halford against West Ham. The same week saw him called up to the England U17’s for a tournament in Portugal. After 67 league appearances and five goals he was off to Suffolk in exchange for Matt Clarke and a tidy sum of cash. Good business, but still missed.
Boy wonder Awfs was even younger than Alan Knight when he made his Pompey bow against Crystal Palace in 1989 (though admittedly there was only 25 days in it). Before joining the Blues he became the youngest player to play in an FA Cup tie when appearing for Worcester City at the age of 15 years and 88 days.
17-year-old Academy graduate Whatmough’s first-team career began with a 2-1 home loss against Southend at Fratton Park in 2013. He marked his presence in the side with a maturity that belied his tender years - the only giveaway was his lower sixth form mess of a haircut.
Local lad Viney was thrown in at the deep end as an 18-year-old by Ian St John at the back end of the 1975/76 relegation season. Born in Paulsgrove, raised in Stamshaw, he remains the only Pompey-born player (so far) to have won the Player of the Season award.
The coltish midfielder came to prominence as part of the Pompey side that reached the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup in 1990 – beating Liverpool along the way with Anderton scoring both goals in a 2-1 replay victory at Fratton Park. He made his first team debut that same year at the age of 18 in the second round of the League Cup against Cardiff.
The former St John’s schoolboy starred in the same Pompey Youth team as Anderton, and was granted his first team by Alan Ball in the Simod Cup against Middlesbrough as a 17-year-old. A couple of season later and he was an integral part of Jim Smith’s teenage first-team revolution, alongside Awford, Anderson and Symons.
Tony Pulis achieved relatively little during his short stay at Fratton Park, but give him his due he did recognise the youthful talent of Gary O’Neil. So much so that the Welshman made the South London whippersnapper Pompey’s youngest-ever player in a league match against Barnsely in 2000. He was 16 years, eight months and 12 days old – it’s a club record subsequently toppled by current Academy recruit Joe Hancott.
17-year-old Northern Grammar schoolboy Pat Neil was studying for his A-levels when he made an unexpected first team debut on the opening day of the 1955-56 season. With Blues legend Peter Harris out with a dodgy ankle he was drafted in last minute for the game away at Huddersfield. The following weekend saw him drafted in on the other wing as injury struck again. This time it was home against Stanley Matthews’ Blackpool. What’s more, he scored in a 3-3 draw!
Few players let alone 17-years-olds would have more of an immediate impact on the pitch as Luke Nightingale. Coming off the bench on debut for the injured John Aloisi the Somerstown boy scored with his second touch just 65 seconds after coming on. What’s more he went on to score a second, the eventual winner, against West Brom in 1998 in a tight 2-1 win.
Signed from Bournemouth as a nipper, Jimmy remains Pompey’s youngest ever goal-scorer after fizzing one past the legendary keeper Gil Merrick in a 1-1 draw against Birmingham in 1959. It was an eventful debut and his finish made nonsense of the fact he was only 16 years, nine months and nine days old.