'I was Premier League's youngest ever player - now I work as a personal trainer'

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Matthew Briggs was the youngest-ever Premier League player for 12 years (Image: Getty Images)
Matthew Briggs was the youngest-ever Premier League player for 12 years (Image: Getty Images)

Playing in the Premier League is many young footballers' dream - and Matthew Briggs achieved that feat when he played for Fulham against Middlesbrough in May 2007.

In doing so, Briggs became the youngest player in the division's history at the age of 16 years and 65 days. The left-back had been a regular for the Under 18s that season and did not expect to be called up by Laurie Sanchez.

But with Arsenal and Manchester United lurking around for Briggs' signature, Fulham felt throwing him in the first-team and giving him game time would ensure he signed a new deal. Briggs came on for the final 13 minutes at the Riverside Stadium as the Cottagers fell to a 3-1 defeat.

He told The Sun: "We had a meeting and they said they wanted me to travel with the first team, but in order to play you have to be under contract. I was considering going to Arsenal for my scholarship. Fulham said that if I did come on, I'd be the youngest-ever player in the Premier League.

"At that time, at that age, no one is going to turn down that opportunity. One to break a record and then to play in the biggest league in the world."

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Despite pitting his wits up against the likes of Jonathan Woodgate, Mark Viduka, Yakubu and Stewart Downing, Briggs was back at school the next day to sit his GCSE's. It was a mind-boggling experience for the Wandsworth-born defender, who admitted everything changed after his Fulham debut.

"It felt so awkward, people coming up to me and saying they saw me on TV and asking me to sign things," he said. "And these were my friends who I saw every day! Everything just changed after that debut."

However, it took Briggs three years to make his next Fulham appearance. He had spent half a season on loan at Leyton Orient, before being handed his full debut under Mark Hughes in a 6-0 win over Port Vale. In the same season, Briggs made his first Premier League start against Chelsea.

Explaining his long wait for his next Fulham match, Briggs added: "It was confusing for me. I never had an explanation as to why.

'I was Premier League's youngest ever player - now I work as a personal trainer'Matthew Briggs is now back at Fulham as a mentor (INSTAGRAM@https://www.instagram.com/matthewbriggs_12/?hl=en)

"The pressure of being in the youth changing room and kids at that age goading you, teasing you… And there was pressure from outside of the club with friends who had a massive expectation, asking when I’d next be in.

"I felt almost embarrassed to even answer it because I didn’t know why. I was just very confused and I lost my confidence."

Briggs has since been replaced as the youngest-ever Premier League player, with Harvey Elliott taking that record when he appeared for Fulham in 2019. Arsenal's Ethan Nwaneri is now the youngest after he came on for the Gunners at the age of 15 and 181 days against Brentford last September.

As for Briggs, he ended up leaving Fulham in 2014 on a permanent basis to join Millwall. The defender then had spells at Colchester, Chesterfield and Barnet, before dropping out of the Football League with Maldon & Tiptree. At that point, Briggs was also working on a construction site while playing football on the side.

'I was Premier League's youngest ever player - now I work as a personal trainer'Matthew Briggs made his debut for Fulham aged 16 (INSTAGRAM@https://www.instagram.com/matthewbriggs_12/?hl=en)

Now he runs online fitness sessions from his Instagram account @matthewbriggs_12 and is currently enjoying his football at Isthmian League side Horsham, having impressed for Gosport Borough last season.

The 32-year-old is also an academy player care mentor at Fulham, where he works with several young players as they aim to reach the Premier League - just as Briggs did.

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His work as a personal training has caught the attention on social media, however, with Briggs boasting almost 10,000 followers on Instagram. He consistently uploads videos in the gym, while also helping others.

Speaking back in January, Briggs said on Instagram: "You don't need to go to the gym for crazy hours to get results and make a change to you body. What you need to do is go to the gym for no more than 1 hour 3 to 4 times a week and do this consistently along with changing your nutritional habits.

"A lot of people give up after a few weeks when they don't see a change. Don't be that person, because If you make sure to stick at it and focus on your goal and be consistent you will see life changing results. If you want help getting started on your fitness journey just DM me the word START."

Kieran King

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