Christopher Atherton: Glenavon teenager breaks record as UK’s youngest senior footballer

Christopher Atherton played in this summer’s SuperCupNI at Glenavon

Northern Ireland schoolboy Christopher Atherton became the UK’s youngest senior footballer aged 13 years and 329 days when he played for Glenavon on Tuesday.

And he made a quick impact, assisting Glenavon’s sixth goal.

Atherton has broken the 42-year-old record held by Eamon Collins, who played for Blackpool at the age of 14 years and 323 days.

Collins made his Blackpool debut on 9 September 1980.

“A great kid who works day and night on his game”

Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton said he was filled with joy and pride to see Atherton, who has been in Lurgan Blues’ academy for almost 10 years, make his first-team debut.

“He’s a great kid. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him once a week for the last eight years because he plays in the same academy team. [Hamilton’s son] Callum,” she said Glenavon’s YouTubeexternal link channel

“He’s great to watch and he’s a great kid, but the work he does outside of training at Glenavon and his dedication to being a professional footballer is incredible.

“That’s what separates him from a lot of kids in the academy. He works day and night on his game, eats the right foods and goes to bed at the right time.

“He does everything he can to become a better footballer and to give himself the best chance to become a professional footballer. I’ve been watching him for years and I’ve said for a long time that he’s the best player I’ve seen at his age.”

Glenavon has developed a strong pedigree in developing young players who have moved on to full-time football in recent years, with Mark Sykes at Oxford United and Shayne Lavery at Blackpool.

Hamilton has no doubt that Atherton will soon make it to England or Scotland.

“He’s such a special talent. There’s a lot of interest in him from clubs across the board and I’m not surprised at all,” continued the former Glentoran and Northern Ireland striker.

“It fills you with joy and pride, because we started this academy and it has been there since the beginning when he was four or five years old.

“He’s hit his stride. He’s still doing it. He’s a quiet kid, but he’s got confidence and ability, nothing fazes him or scares him on that football field.

“When we started that academy phase, it’s great to see someone having fun and playing in the first team.”