Last night saw Fabio Lopes become the third-youngest player to appear for Oxford United.
The 16-year-old striker came on as a substitute for James Henry during the 2-0 win over Coventry City to become the youngest player to play for the club in over 40 years, and the third youngest since the club turned professional in 1949.
“It was unbelievable,” he told iFollow after the game. “I am only 16 and I have played against Crystal Palace and Zaha in pre-season and now against a big club like Coventry in a competitive game. I really enjoyed it. The senior players have been fantastic with me and so has Karl Robinson, who has shown a lot of faith in me and given me my chance.”
Karl believes that Fabio has a very bright future ahead of him:
“He has all the attributes to go a very long way and he was involved in the team on merit. It’s another sign of the way the Academy is doing great things at Oxford United. It is moving at pace and bringing through players at all age groups.
“Seeing Fabio come in and play for the first team will be a big boost for everyone at the Academy, I am sure. He was playing in the same side as Shandon Baptiste, who I thought had an outstanding game, and if I was one of the young players in the age-group sides I would be looking at the team sheet and thinking that one day I might get a chance myself.
"I have worked with a lot of young players who have gone on to play at a higher level- everyone knows about Dele Alli but also players like Jay Desilva who won the European Championship with England's under 19s, Ezri Konsa at Charlton, and now the young players at Oxford like Fabio, Shandon, Sam Long, Malachi Napa and loads more coming through”
“That’s great for the whole club and something we should justifiably be proud of.
Those sentiments were echoed by Academy Manager Dan Harris:
“From an Academy point of view, it was great to see Shandon get his first home start and Fabio come off the bench, and I hope this inspires other young players throughout our Academy programme to raise their levels as they try to be the ‘next man up’.”
Although Jimmy Smith and Tony Harper both made their debuts for Headington United aged just 14 (in 1938 ad 1940), the youngest player to play for the club since it turned professional in 1949 remains Graham Atkinson, who also holds the record as the all-time top scorer.
Graham was 16 years 108 days when he played against Chelmsford on 2nd September 1959.
Striker Jason Seacole holds the record for the youngest player in the Football League at 16 years, 149 days against Mansfield on 7th September 1976.
Fabio, whose birthday is 7th December 2001, was 16 years and 250 days when he made his appearance against Coventry, moving him to third in the list, slightly younger than Declan Benjamin.
Oxford United’s all-time youngest players (1949 to present):
|Graham Atkinson||Chelmsford City||2nd September 1959||16 yrs 108 days|
|Jason Seacole||Mansfield Town||7th September 1976||16 yrs 149 days|
|Fabio Lopes||Coventry City||14th August 2018||16 yrs 250 days|
|Declan Benjamin||Ebbsfleet United||17th November 2007||16 yrs 286 days|
|Ben Weedon||Rushden & Diamonds||28th January 2006||16 yrs 304 days|
|Billy Jeffrey||Fulham||26th January 1973||16 yrs 336 days|
|Aaron Woodley||Crawley Town||29th September 2009||16 yrs 352 days|