Why teenage Manchester City keeper Gavin Bazunu is ready to re-write Portsmouth history after 40 years

It has been more than 40 years since Pompey last possessed a teenage goalkeeper as a regular starter.

Monday, 5th July 2021, 4:30 pm
Alan Knight was the last teenage goalkeeper to feature regular in Pompey's first-team. Picture: Phil O'Brien

Even then, an 18-year-old Alan Knight was merely deputising for Peter Mellor over an nine-game period.

Yet Gavin Bazunu is poised to claim the spot as his own – at the grand old age of 19.

Admittedly, his birth certificate is misleading, this is no rookie thrown in at the deep end.

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The Manchester City man last week arrived at Fratton Park boasting four Republic of Ireland caps and 32 first-team appearances.

It is unlikely Pompey have ever before welcomed such an experienced keeper for his age.

Post-war history shows a teenage goalkeeper is a rarity in Pompey’s first-team, let alone one amassing regular starts.

Albeit in this case, outings are dependent on Bazunu beating Alex Bass to the position.

Looking back, both Knight and John Milkins were aged 16 when thrown into senior duty, before returning to the reserves and youth team to learn their art for longer.

Milkins came back into the side at 18, making 21 appearances in the 1961-62 season during a lengthier run of games.

He eventually established himself in the 1964-65 campaign as George Smith’s side narrowly avoided relegation from Division Two.

Milkins would total 389 appearances before leaving Pompey for Oxford United in August 1974.

Knight was a matter of days younger than Milkins when he made his debut at Rotherham in April 1978 at the age of 16 years, nine months and 27 days.

He also had to wait for a sustained run in the side, which started against Walsall in November 1979.

From that point, he lined-up in nine of Pompey’s next 11 matches in all competitions under Frank Burrows.

It took until the eve of the 1981-82 season for the youngster to be informed by Burrows that he was now number one, with Mellor subsequently forced to move on.

By that stage, Knight was aged 20.

In comparison, Bazunu is presently 19 years and four months – with his last birthday in February.

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The Irishman’s first-team rival is Bass, whose Pompey bow arrived as an 18-year-old at Coventry in the League Cup in August 2016.

However, it took Bass until halfway through the 2019-20 campaign before getting a run of matches, by which time he was in his early 20s. He is currently 23.

Around the time of Knight’s entrance was Phil Figgins, a local lad who was 19 years and eight months when granted a debut at Fulham in April 1975.

Elsewhere, eternal goalkeeping back-up to Knight was Andy Gosney, emerging from the Academy to face Millwall in May 1982.

Aged 18 years and six months, Gosney would go on to total 62 outings in a decade at Fratton Park.

Aaron Flahavan was another home-grown product and marked his debut as a substitute against Leicester City in January 1995.

Knight had been sent off for handling outside the box in the subsequent FA Cup defeat, ensuring an entrance off the bench for a player aged 19 years and one month.

Flahavan, who wouldn’t establish himself as a regular until the 1996-97 campaign, sadly passed away in August 2001 following a car crash.

Others who followed Flahavan and Knight through the youth set-up included Asmir Begovic (aged 21) and Chris Tardif (aged 21).

Only last season, Taylor Seymour appeared as a second-half substitute at Peterborough in the Papa John’s Trophy in January.

Aged 19 years and three months, he has since been released by the Blues and has this summer been training with Gosport.

Now Bazunu has entered the building – a possible first-team regular keeper at the age of 19.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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