Hamilton praises 'humble' record-breaking teenager

Michael Scott


Michael Scott



Wednesday 14 September 2022 9:21

Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton has urged Christopher Atherton to keep his feet on the ground after he made his first team debut aged just 13 and 329 days.

The youngster is now the youngest player ever to play in a top class game in the UK and missed out on the world record by just 27 days.

In fact, Hamilton revealed that he had been due to feature in the Lurgan Blues’ last game of last season but due to a pre-arranged family trip he missed the fixture.

The Glenavon boss told the club’s YouTube channel after the game of his pride in seeing the youngster make his debut.

“He’s a great kid. I’ve had the pleasure of watching him every other week for the last seven or eight years because he plays on the same team as my son, Calum,” he told Glenavon Media.

“He’s a joy to watch but the work he does away from Glenavon and the dedication he has he has to become a professional footballer is unbelievable and that's what separates him from a lot of the kids at the Academy.

“He works night and day at his game. He eats right foods. He goes to bed at the right time. He does everything he can to become a better footballer and to try and give himself the best opportunity of becoming a professional footballer.

“I've been watching him for years and for a long time I've said he's the best player I've seen at that age. He's got a long way to go, but if he keeps going the way is and keeps being humble the way is, he's got great parents who keep him humble as well - they don't get too far ahead of themselves, which you tend to find some days with parents. He is a credit to them.”

Atherton made an instant impact too, setting up the final goal in their 6-0 win over Dollingstown in the BetMcLean League Cup with his first touch.

And he could have had one himself just moments later, only for a fine double save by goalkeeper Gareth Buchanan.

Hamilton added, “He didn't give the ball away once in the whole time he was on, for 15 minutes as a 13 year old kid.

“A lot of us at that at age would have been dreaming of becoming a footballer playing for the first team. You would have been thinking it's a million miles away but with him I had no doubt that in a game like tonight, if we had got ahead of it then I could bring them on because I know what he's capable of.

“He caught his chance well to be fair and to be fair to the goalkeeper he made a great double save. That would have been the icing on the cake because with his first touch of the ball, he gets an assist.

“He's just a special talent and there's a lot of interest for him from cross channel clubs. I'm not surprised one bit.”

Hamilton said that Atherton’s debut filled him “full of joy and pride”.

“We started this academy and he's been there from the start, from he was four or five years of age.
“He's progressed right through and he just gets on about it. He's a quiet kid but he's confident in his ability and he's on that football pitch in the hunt phases and he is afraid of nothing.

“It’s great to see a player from that age group of the Academy come right through and play for the first team.”

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