From Theo Walcott to Raheem Sterling – a look at England’s youngest debutants

By PA sport staff
·3-min read

Jude Bellingham’s call-up to the England squad for the first time could see his name enter the record books should he make his debut against the Republic of Ireland this week.

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder, who will be 17 years and 136 days old when Gareth Southgate’s side play on Thursday night, will become the third youngest player in Three Lions’ history if he collects his first cap at Wembley.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the other players who made their England debuts at the tender age of 17.

SOCCER England Bellingham Seventeen
SOCCER England Bellingham Seventeen

Theo Walcott

Age: 17 years and 75 days
Debut: May 30, 2006 v Hungary

Theo Walcott celebrating a hat-trick of goals against Croatia in Zagreb.
Theo Walcott celebrating his hat-trick against Croatia in Zagreb (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Walcott was a surprise inclusion in the 2006 World Cup squad, selected by Sven-Goran Eriksson. The winger even made his debut for England before playing for Arsenal, following his move from Southampton.

He was a 65th-minute substitute in a 3-1 win over Hungary at Old Trafford, but watched the World Cup from the bench as the Three Lions were knocked out by Portugal on penalties in the quarter-finals.

Walcott’s most memorable moment in an England shirt was his hat-trick in a 4-1 win in Croatia in a World Cup qualifier in 2008.

Wayne Rooney

Age: 17 years and 111 days
Debut: February 12, 2003 v Australia

Wayne Rooney in action during his England debut almost 18 years ago.
Wayne Rooney in action during his England debut almost 18 years ago (Nick Potts/PA)

Rooney went on to become England’s record goal scorer, netting 53 times, but it all began as a 52nd-minute substitute in a 3-1 defeat to Australia at Upton Park, where he was overshadowed by fellow debutant Francis Jeffers, who scored the Three Lions’ consolation goal.

The Derby captain is England’s most capped outfield player, representing his country 120 times, and is second on the all-time list behind Peter Shilton (125).

James Prinsep

Age: 17 years and 252 days
Debut: April 1879 v Scotland

Prinsep held the distinction of being England’s youngest ever player for almost 124 years before the record was broken by Rooney. His only cap came in a game where the Three Lions came from 4-1 down to win 5-4 against Scotland at the Kennington Oval.

Prinsep died in 1895 at the age of 34 as a result of complications from pneumonia.

Thurston Rostron

Age: 17 years and 311 days
Debut: February 1881 v Wales

Rostron played twice for his country, winning both caps aged just 17. He made his bow during a 1-0 defeat to Wales at Blackburn. Rostron died aged 28 in 1891.

Raheem Sterling

Age: 17 years and 342 days
Debut: November 14, 2012 v Sweden

Raheem Sterling battling for the ball during his England debut at the Friends Arena in Stockholm in November 2012.
Raheem Sterling battling for the ball during his England debut at the Friends Arena in Stockholm in November 2012 (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Sterling had played just 20 times for Liverpool when he won his first England cap, playing 84 minutes as an experimental Roy Hodgson side were beaten 4-2 in Stockholm courtesy of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic masterclass, with the striker scoring all four goals.

Leon Osman, Steven Caulker, Carl Jenkinson, Ryan Shawcross and Wilfried Zaha also made their debuts that night.

Despite being just 25, the Manchester City forward is now one of the most senior players in the current England squad with 58 caps to his name.