Dozzell confident for today's teenagers

JASON Dozzell is confident football's modern day teenage prodigies will not suffer the same fate as him and burnout by the time they reach their late 20s.

Stuart Watson

JASON Dozzell is confident football's modern day teenage prodigies will not suffer the same fate as him and burnout by the time they reach their late 20s.

Barnsley's Reuben Noble-Lazarus became the youngest ever debutant in the Football League when he was introduced as a second half substitute at Portman Road last week aged just 15 years and 45 days.

Pictures of the youngster back at his Huddersfield-based school the following day sparked memories for Dozzell, who was back at Chantry High School the Monday after making his debut for Ipswich aged 16 years and 57 days back in 1984.

That game against Coventry not only made him the youngest ever debutant in English football's top flight history, but his goal also made him the youngest ever scorer. Both records still stand today.

The 40-year-old said: “When you are so young it just goes over your head, but when I look back now I can't quite believe what happened to me. We had TV cameras in school and at play time all my class-mates made a circle and I had to keep the ball up in the middle. It was all a little awe inspiring.”

Most Read

The talented midfielder went on to make more than 200 appearances for Town by his early 20s but, following a big money move to Tottenham, he played in fits and starts during his late 20s due to niggling injuries.

Dozzell returned to Ipswich in 1997 but made just ten appearances before quickly being forced to drop down to lower level football with Northampton and Colchester.

“I did start to feel it at about 29,” said Dozzell. “There was really no rest for me from the time I made my debut and because I'd started five or six years earlier than most I ended up finishing earlier.”

However, he has no fears that today's generations of football whizzkids will go down the same route. He said: “It's a completely different game nowadays. There is far more protection for players now, you wouldn't get away with the sort of tackles that the likes of Norman Whiteside, Graeme Souness and Bryan Robson used to put in.

“They didn't mess about and they didn't care how young you were. I had to learn quickly because there were some really hard characters that where happy to put you up in the air.”

He added: “Your body is still growing at that age so you have to be careful, but I'm sure he (Noble-Lazarus) will be in and out of the first team squad and will be used sparingly.

“In today's game there is far more attention to diet and lifestyle. You've got people telling you when to rest, top-class treatment rooms with ice baths. It's a completely different era for football now which will hopefully help these youngsters play for longer.”

Asked if he had any advice for Noble-Lazarus and any future schoolboy debutants, Dozzell said: “It's important to have good people around you when you start so young and I'm sure he (Noble-Lazarus) has got that.

“The Barnsley manager seems a nice guy and he will need his friends and family to keep his feet on the ground. I know my teachers and my mum wouldn't let me get away with any misbehaviour.

“The first team players looked after me too. Terry Butcher, in particular, took me under his wing. When he was playing for England and I was playing for the Under-21s we used to travel to games together.”

Dozzell, who spent a period managing Ipswich Wanderers and Leiston in non-league football in recent years, now regularly watches Ipswich play at Portman Road.

His record as the youngest top flight debutant and goal scorer still stand, but Premier League players are getting ever closer after Matthew Briggs made his Fulham debut last May aged just 16 years and 65 days.

“Records are there to be broken,” said Dozzell.

“But I can't see mine being beaten just yet. The Premier League is faster and more physical than the Championship so I can't see a 15-year-old playing there just yet.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter