Fulham have Matthew Briggs’ mum to thank for the fact the promising teenage centre-half is one of the brightest prospects at Craven Cottage.
Dawn Briggs has revealed that she was behind her son’s decision to join Fulham as a 10-year-old rather than the bigger stage of Chelsea.
Now, six years on, Matthew is hoping to land the riches of a professional footballer after becoming the youngest player to appear in the Premiership.
“All Matthew used to think about was football, football, football,” says Wandsworth-based Dawn, who feels her decision has been vindicated by the fact her 16-year-old son has already played for Fulham’s first team.
“Matthew was playing football virtually every night, whether it being for Fulham academy, his county London, his district, school or local team Wandle Wanderers.”
Briggs was 16 years 65 days old when he replaced Moritz Volz with 15 minutes to go to make his Fulham debut against Middlesbrough at the end of last season – before he had completed his GCSEs at Southfields Community College.
That beat the previous best set by James Millner and even made this year’s Guinness Book of World Records.
Matthew first played competitive football for Wandle Wanderers at the age of 10.
“Matthew is still in contact and is mentored by his old Wandle coach Sonnie Storie,” said Dawn.
Storey, who developed the likes of Crystal Palace striker Clinton Morrison, is still involved with youngsters at Wandle who are eager to follow in Matthew’s footsteps.
“Matthew was really quiet and laid back as a youngster,” said Storey.
“He was an incredible athlete, playing in midfield, and was very talented. He always showed potential at that age to go on and play at a higher level.”
That talent was spotted at a young age by a number of professional clubs, but his mum advised him to go to Fulham because they had a better track record for bringing on young players.
“When I used to watch Matthew play I was getting scouts coming up to me giving cards here there and everywhere. I didn’t know what to do,” Dawn added.
“I was petrified by the amount of interest clubs were showing in my son. I just didn’t know what to do and all I had was Matthew’s best interests at heart.
“Trying to tell Matthew at the age of 10 that clubs like Chelsea were not the best option was beyond belief.
“But, in the end, it was the right decision for Matthew’s footballing interests, for which he thanks me today.
“It was hard to keep him focused on schoolwork because he was so passionate and all he wanted to do was play football.
“Not once did I get call from Matthew’s school regarding him getting in trouble or distracted.”
Although he is yet to appear for Fulham’s first team this season, he is a regular in their reserves and recently made his debut for England U16.
And he is currently in Portugal representing his country in the Algarve tournament.
“Matthew was ecstatic when he was called up to play for the U16s and hopes to one day be called up for the senior side, playing at a future World Cup,” added Dawn.
“What Matthew has achieved so far has been amazing but, for such a young age, I believe he is strong enough mentally to keep his self-control to achieve greater things.”