In May 2019, Harvey Elliott made his Premier League debut for Fulham. Elliott was just 16-years, 30-days old when he made his debut for the Cottagers. The winger completed a transfer to Liverpool shortly thereafter continuing his meteoric rise in football. Elliott became the Premier League’s youngest player when he debuted for Fulham. The man that held the title of youngest Premier League player prior to Elliott was another Fulham player, Matthew Briggs. His story is one of a player that could have reached greater heights had a few decisions gone his way.
Who is Matthew Briggs?
Twelve years prior to Elliott taking the title of youngest player, Matthew Briggs debuted for Fulham at the age of 16-years, 68-days old. Now, 29, the defender has been on a nomadic journey in football. Briggs can claim to have played for clubs including Watford, Millwall, Colchester United, Chesterfield, Barnet, HB Koge, and most recently Dartford.
According to the BBC, the ex-Fulham player has had injuries and mental health setbacks forcing him out of the game. It led to Briggs working in construction on building sites in between spells at clubs.
But things could have been very different for Briggs, showing that a few decisions can alter a player’s career.
Where did it go wrong for Matthew Briggs?
Briggs racked up appearances for Fulham and was in line for a three-year contract at Craven Cottage just before leaving the club. However, manager Martin Jol’s sacking saw Briggs’ contract offer taken away. He moved to Millwall on a free contract instead. Had Jol not been sacked, Briggs may have stayed long-term at Fulham building a lasting career.
Even before being released by the club, Briggs found frustration at Fulham. A lifelong Manchester United supporter, Briggs attracted interest from Sir Alex Ferguson’s team as a teen. Having sold players to the Red Devils previously, Fulham weren’t willing to let Briggs go for cheap. According to Briggs, the club proposed a large transfer fee that Manchester United wouldn’t agree to pay.
The two incidents show that external issues in a player’s life can cause issues on the pitch. Sometimes it isn’t just the play on the field that affects a player’s career.
In 2019, Briggs was chosen as a member of the Guyana national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He made nine appearances in 2019 with the Central American team. Briggs qualified for the Guyana national team through his grandmother. Although still playing at the semi-pro level in England, Briggs has been able to play international football.
The decisions of Fulham not to sell Briggs or to re-sign him will remain major turning points that could have seen his career turn out differently. It just shows that many of the decisions by clubs and coaches change the trajectory of a player’s career.