WITH the clock ticking down as Arsenal led Brentford 3-0 at the Gtech Community Stadium, manager Mikel Arteta looked to his bench at wonderkid Ethan Nwaneri and gave him the nod to come on.
It was reward for a fine training session on Saturday, as the talented midfielder made his debut in the 91st minute for the final moments of a match already won.
As he ran onto the pitch, Arteta whispered in his ear: “Congratulations and enjoy it.”
His appearance at just 15 years and 181 days shattered Harvey Elliot’s record of youngest ever player to play in the Premier League.
While the away faithful couldn’t help but rub salt into the wounds as they hilariously chanted in the direction of the home fans: “How s*** must you be, he’s only 15” and “he’s got school in the morning”.
With the Monday off because of the Queen’s funeral and a national bank holiday, Nwaneri will have to wait to share his experience with his school pals at St John’s Prep and Senior School in Enfield, north London.
But his story has been quietly bubbling away as he’s risen through the ranks at Hale End.
It was only last year that Nwaneri made his debut for Arsenal’s U18’s as a 14-year-old.
Even better than that, he scored a superb solo goal that had Gooners take note and share on social media – calling him the future of their club.
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Born in 2007, he arrived in this world a year after the Emirates Stadium opened.
He joined Arsenal at the age of nine when he was still in primary school.
Earlier this month, he made his debut for the U21’s against Blackburn. He scored.
Also in August, he came on as a sub for England’s U17’s. No surprises, he scored again.
It’s led to academy coaches encouraging Arteta to carefully utilise Nwaneri with the first team.
“We have been told in the last year or two from academy coaches and from Edu that we have certain talents that we need to look after,” Arteta told talkSPORT.
“And the best way we need to reach something is to send a strong message that it’s not going to be about the age, the age doesn’t tell you a good player from a bad player.
“When you look at that boy I have a feeling that he has something special and now he makes a step forward and now maybe he needs ten steps backwards… it’s a nice moment.”
Injuries forced Arteta’s hand
Injuries to first team personnel, including Martin Odegaard, Mohamed Elneny, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Emile Smith Rowe forced Arteta’s hand to name Nwaneri on the bench.
Arteta said after the match: “He has trained a couple of times with us and I had a feeling yesterday (Saturday) that if the opportunity came I would do it.
“I think it sends a strong message about who we are as a club. I told him he would be with us and he had to be ready. He is ready.”
Amazingly, the speed of his promotion came before he has a profile on the first team page of the club’s official website.
It was also reported because of his age, Nwaneri had to get changed in a room away from the first team.
At the final whistle, Nwaneri was pushed towards the away section by goalie Aaron Ramsdale to soak up his moment.
Brazilian youngster Gabriel Martinelli pointed towards Nwaneri’s direction as the players lapped up their supporter’s applause.
You get the feeling that will be one of many salutes he will be given as his Arsenal career progresses.