Everton’s new youngest player Thierry Small admits sacrifices he and his family made helped him realise his dream.
The teenager broke Jose Baxter’s record from 2008 by 15 days when he was sent on as a late substitute in the 3-0 FA Cup fourth-round win over Championship side Sheffield Wednesday aged just 16 years and 176 days.
Small joined the club as an 11-year-old having previously been at West Brom and – five years later – he was making his senior debut as a replacement for former Real Madrid and Bayern Munich playmaker James Rodriguez.
“It still hasn’t sunk in properly, it’s one of the best feelings I’ve had in my life, making my family proud after all the hard work we’ve had to put in through the years and the sacrifices,” Small told evertontv.
“I had to move away from home at the age of 11, that was hard…it is character building, it matured me as a player and I am grateful Carlo Ancelotti gave me the opportunity to play.
“I was itching to get on and when Dunc (assistant manager Duncan Ferguson) told me, I can’t describe the feeling.
“It is everything I have dreamed of since I was a young boy. It is just crazy.”
Small, who cannot sign a professional contract until his 17th birthday in August, could find further opportunities limited before the end of the season with Everton facing Wycombe or Tottenham in the fifth round.
When he found out – 48 hours before kick-off – he was in the match-day squad, he took advice from his uncle Bryan, who made more than 30 top-flight appearances for Aston Villa.
“He told me to keep things simple, to just express myself and be calm,” added the youngster.
“Hopefully there will be many more opportunities but I have to keep working hard on the training pitch.
“That is where I can keep improving and the most important thing is to be consistent.”