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Listed: The youngest players ever to represent Bolton Wanderers

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

There are few more rewarding sights for a football fan than seeing a homegrown player get their big break after years of working their way through the youth system.

For some, opportunity knocks early, and with Wanderers now dropping the Under-23s team there is no ‘halfway house’ between the Under-18s and senior football.

On Tuesday night at Shrewsbury the Whites had five scholars in their squad – Finlay Lockett, Regan Riley, Max Conway, Matthew Tweedley and Kian Le Fondre who, had he been used on the night, would have been the club’s youngest-ever player at 15 years and 248 days.

With the help of Twitter number-crunchers, BWFC Stats, we have compiled a list of the youngest players ever to pull on a Bolton shirt in a competitive game.

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RAY PARRY – 15 yrs 268 days

A future England international, Parry made his debut on October 13, 1951, against Wolves and would play nearly 300 games for the club.

An inside forward, Parry had made just a handful of reserve team appearances before being called upon by Bill Ridding. He did not play in the 1953 FA Cup final defeat to Blackpool but did appear five years later as Wanderers lifted the trophy with victory against Manchester United.

Parry won two full caps for England and scored against Northern Ireland in November 1959, becoming the last Wanderers player to score for the Three Lions until Gary Cahill did so against Bulgaria in 2008.

FINLAY LOCKETT – 16 yrs 122 days

The very youngest of the Junior Whites who featured against Coventry City last August, Lockett is a second-year scholar at Wanderers and tipped for a bright future.

Able to play across the attacking line, Lockett has already made two appearances for Ian Evatt, including a full debut in the EFL Trophy against Shrewsbury Town.

BRIAN BIRCH – 16 yrs 169 days

Southport-born winger who served Wanderers for a decade after making his debut, replacing the injured Doug Holden, as an outside-left in the 3-3 draw with Aston Villa on September 25, 1954.

The youngest member of the 1958 FA Cup final team at, 20, Birch was actually serving with the RAF alongside his football duties.

He made 191 appearances, scoring 28 goals, before moving on to Rochdale.

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FRANCIS LEE – 16 yrs 190 days

One of Wanderers’ greatest-ever youth products, there was seldom a quiet moment when Lee took the pitch in his eight years at Burnden Park.

He scored on his debut against Manchester City, aptly on November 5, 1960, where he partnered a 35-year-old Nat Lofthouse in attack.

From there the path to stardom was not smooth. He handed in transfer requests after being dropped to the reserve team but averaged just over a goal every other game in his 210 appearances.

A master from the penalty spot, at arguably at earning them too, Lee once scored in seven consecutive games for Bolton before leaving for City in September 1967.

REGAN RILEY – 16 yrs 278 days

Brought off the bench at Tranmere Rovers last season for his debut, another one of the Junior Whites collective has stuck around to feature again under Ian Evatt.

Under-18s regular Riley came off the bench in the 2-1 defeat at Shrewsbury in the EFL Trophy and acquitted himself well in midfield.

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DON MCALLISTER - 16yrs 318 days

The former Lancashire schoolboys defender, born in Radcliffe, made his Wanderers bow against Norwich City on April 9, 1970, having cut his teeth in the same youth team as Sam Allardyce, Paul Jones and Barry Sidall.

He took over from Syd Farrimond as Bolton’s regular left-back and helped Jimmy Armfield’s side to the Third Division title in 1972/73, missing just one game in the process.

In 177 appearances he scored twice before moving on to Tottenham in February 1975 for £80,000.

BRIAN BROMLEY - 16yrs 354 days

His first appeance for Bolton came against Sheffield United, as the club emerged from the Big Freeze in March 1963 after three months without a game.

A England youth international, Bromley scored Wanderers’ last Division One goal against Chelsea in 1964 before their eventual return under Ian Greaves some 14 years later.

He left the club for Portsmouth in a £25,000 deal in November 1968 having made 184 appearances and scored 26 goals.

JAY FITZMARTIN - 16yrs 364 days

The Leigh-born winger featured as a second-half substitute against Bradford City in last season’s EFL Trophy having played junior football for Eastleigh and Atherton Town.

The former St Mary’s High School pupil has been with Wanderers since the age of 11 and is currently on the second year of his scholarship.

SONNY GRAHAM - 17yrs 61 days

One of the Junior Whites who fought out a goalless draw with eventual League One champions Coventry City, Graham went on to feature regularly in the 2019/20 season for Wanderers.

Graham made 18 appearances in all competitions last term and was recently touted for a loan move to the Northern Premier League with Atherton Colls until a Covid infection derailed the deal.

Bolton have high hopes for the combative young midfielder, who was also involved in draws against AFC Wimbledon, Rochdale and Bradford.

JIMMY REDFERN - 17yrs 71 days

The Kirkby-born midfielder made his Bolton debut against Middlesbrough hon October 11, 1969, as a replacement for Ian Seddon. He went on to play 28 games for the club, scoring three goals, before moving on for a longer stint with Chester City. He later played for a handful of clubs in the North American Soccer League.

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RICARDO VAZ TE – 17yrs 84 days

The Portuguese striker never quite lived up to his billing as the ‘next big thing’ at Bolton but will always be remembered fondly for a late equaliser in the UEFA Cup tie at Guimaraes.

Spotting playing youth team football at Farense, Vaz Te was snapped up to the Bolton academy and fast-tracked into first team action in a matter of months.

Vaz Te’s debut came in the FA Cup against Tranmere Rovers in January 2004 and barely a year later he was part of Wanderers’ European adventures.

Injuries and the post-Allardyce fall-out at Bolton meant fans never saw the best of the unpredictable and pacey front man – but he went on to carve out a fine career with the likes of Hibs, Barnsley and West Ham.

MATTY ALEXANDER – 17yrs 95 days

“England’s number one” sang the Bolton fans as Alexander and his fresh-faced team-mates blocked out Coventry to earn a point which will go down in the club’s history books last August.

Alexander pushed past the likes of Will Jaaskelainen and Jake Turner to make his first team debut last season and command a regular place on the bench in League One.

This season, Ian Evatt has already ear-marked the Newcastle-born stopper as his chief back-up to Billy Crellin.

ROBERT SISSONS – 17yrs 100 days

Stockport-born midfielder Rob Sissons got his big break against Watford in January 2006, coming on as a substitute for Bruno N’Gotty.

It proved his only appearance in professional football and after his release at Bolton he dropped into non-league, playing for Droylsden, whilst also studying to become a solicitor at Manchester University.

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