SCHOOLBOY Reuben Noble-Lazarus is having to get used to signing autographs.
The teenager was back at his desk at Newsome High School yesterday for a normal day of English, art and science lessons.
But he had to fight his way through an adoring crowd to get there.
Just hours earlier, Reuben became the youngest-ever player to appear in a first team game in the Football League’s 120-year history.
Aged just 15 years and 45 days – and wearing braces on his teeth – he ran out for Barnsley for the last six minutes of the Championship match against Ipswich Town on Tuesday night.
It turned him into an overnight star.
But yesterday modest Reuben, of Cromarty Avenue, Crosland Moor, said: “I don’t think it will change me. I’m pretty down-to-earth.
“I wasn’t really nervous. It felt a bit weird warming up in front of the Ipswich fans, who were shouting stuff at me, but when I got on the pitch, it was just like another game.’’
The young striker was given his chance after scoring a hat-trick in Barnsley’s 3-2 academy side win over Sheffield United on Saturday – a performance he rated as once of his best.
Just days before that he had played his last ever game for Newsome High, scoring the winning goal against Salendine Nook High School.
The school has a history of developing young sporting talent. Huddersfield Town player Joe Skarz and Huddersfield Giants player Michael Lawrence are both former pupils.
Head teacher Paul Gittins: “We are incredibly proud. It’s quite strange that last Thursday he was playing for the under-16s and scoring the winner against another school in front of about 12 people and then last night he becomes the youngest ever football league player in front of 19,000 fans.”
He added: “We got a phone call from Barnsley asking for our permission for him to play, because they have to. I said he could, as long as he did his homework on the coach.’’
Barnsley were already 3-0 down to Ipswich when Reuben made his bow, with another Huddersfield old boy, Jon Stead, on the scoresheet.
But he said he was just glad to have got on the pitch.
“It was just good to play,” he said.“I got a couple of decent touches and managed to nutmeg one of their players. I didn’t feel like there were 19,000 people there.”
Year 11 pupil Reuben will now spend two days a week at Barnsley and three at Newsome High.
He said: “I will always be focussed on football, but I know that school is important too.”
Barnsley manager Simon Davey had spotted Reuben’s talent when he managed the under-18s and played him in the team as a 12-year-old.
He said: “He has taken it all in his stride. He was great when he came on against Ipswich and showed some great touches. We have to make sure we nurture him now – we can’t expect him to produce miracles for the first team.
“He can be as good as he wants to be. He’s got all the attributes to be a great player.”
Reuben’s parents Bridget and Roy were flown to the game in a helicopter by Barnsley.
Bridget said: “It was fantastic, obviously we were both overwhelmed. I think I was more nervous than Reuben was, he didn’t seem nervous at all. I thought he showed real composure.
“We always thought he had natural talent, but as parents you are always bound to see the best in your children, so you never really know how good they are.”
She added that Reuben had is feet on the ground and said: “We try not to get swept up in it all. His dad used to play football but had to stop because of a problem with his leg, so we know it’s a short-lived career.
“His brother, Kurtis, is a coach at Barnsley and I think that has really helped.”
Next page has the top five youngest ever players.
Top five youngest
Reuben Noble-Lazarus (Barnsley), September 30, 2008, 15 years 45 days
Ken Roberts (Wrexham), March 27, 1936, 15 years 158 days
Albert Geldard (Bradford), April 11, 1914, 15 years 158 days
Ronnie Dix (Bristol Rovers) September 5, 1912, 15 years 173 days
Derek Forster (Sunderland), February 19, 1949, 15 years 185 days
Other young guns
Youngest Premiership player: Aaron Lennon, Leeds United, August 2003, 16 years 129 days.
Youngest Premier League goalscorer: James Vaughan, Everton, April 10, 2005, 16 years 271 days.
Youngest ever England player: Theo Walcott, May 2006, 17 years 75 days old.