A Question Of Timing

Age-Old Dilemma On Blooding Youngsters

Cameron Buchanan – youngest Wolf cub of the lot.

How young is too young? How old is old enough? In other words, when should a manager blood the brightest of teenage hopefuls?

It is a question that has been asked ever since football itself was introduced to a captive audience and supporters at Molineux, with the club’s proud record of producing their own talent, have debated it as much as any.

Historian Peter Crump, who has been promoted this season to a full-time position in the outstanding Molineux Museum, has delved into the archives to put the talented Wolves cubs into some kind of order and show how they line up, based on their ages when blooded in the first team.

Here are his findings, starting with a well-known name from the gold and black past – and we thank Warwick Nash for his input along the way.

14 – Cameron Buchannan was a mere 14 years, one month and 26 days when introduced on September, 26, 1942 in a wartime game against Albion. 

16 – Jimmy Mullen was 16 years, one month and nine days old when he faced Leeds in Division One on February 15, 1939 in the first of his 486 League and cup games for the club. Remarkably, he was on the left wing for some pre-war games in which the similarly-aged Alan Steen played on the right wing. The latter was first seen in the senior team aged 16 years, eight months and 20 days on March 18, 1939 against Manchester United. Coming much more up to date, Chem Campbell made his debut on October 30, 2019 against Aston Villa in the League Cup aged 16 years, ten months and Morgan Gibbs White was 16 years 11 months, 11 days when first seen – against Stoke in the FA Cup on January 7, 2017. In between those two who are now at Charlton (on loan) and Nottingham Forest respectively, David Wintersgill made his big entrance against Blackburn in the Second Division on August 28, 1982, at the age of 16 years, 11 months and nine days and Martin Patching was 16 years, 11 months and ten days old when, on October 11, 1975, he played against Sheffield United in Division One.

Graham Rodger pictured in the 1980s.

17 – Graham Rodger, an FA Cup finalist not too long afterwards, made his debut on April 21, 1984 against Ipswich in the top flight. He was 17 years, 20 days. Robbie Keane was slightly older at 17 years, one month, one day when unleashed for a sensational two-goal debut at Norwich in the second tier on August 9, 1997. Others blooded before their 18th birthdays are David Heywood (on December 29, 1984 v Manchester City in Division Two at 17 years, five months, four days), Cavan Chapman (on February 23, 1985 v Cardiff in Division Two at 17 years, five months, 12 days), Tim Flowers (on August 25, 1984 v Sheffield United in Division Two at 17 years, six months, 22 days), Lee Naylor (on October 12, 1997 v Birmingham in the second grade at 17 years, six months, 23 days), Martin Bayly (on April 21, 1984 v Ipswich in Division One at 17 years, seven months, seven days, Darren Wright (on September 21 v Plymouth in Division Three at 17 years, seven months, seven days), Derek Ryan (on August 25, 1984 v Sheffield United in Division Two at 17 years, seven months, 23 days), Richard Smith (on August 24, 1985 v Newport in Division Three at 17 years, ten months, two days), Stuart Watkiss (on March 17, 1984 v Sunderland in Division One at 17 years, ten months, nine days), Steve Blackwell (on April 20, 1984 v Wimbledon in Division Two at 17 years, ten months, 12 days, Nicky Clarke (on August 17, 1985 v Brentford in Division Three at 17 years, 11 months, 28 days) and Joleon Lescott (on August 13, 2000 v Sheffield Wednesday in the second tier at 17 years, 11 months, 28 days).

And one final point as we end this piece by inviting our readers to suggest any other names they think we might have overlooked…..Emilio Ballard-Matthews was an unused substitute at 15 years, eight months, 30 days in the Carabao Cup second-round home tie against Blackpool on August 29 this season. 


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