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England's youngest-ever goal scorer

mary lyons_edited.jpg

Mary Lyons

Who was the youngest-ever player to score for England? 


The history books will tell us that was Wayne Rooney (then at Everton FC) when, aged 17 years and 317 days, he scored in England's 2-1 victory over FYR Macedonia on 6 September 2003.

The history books also tell us that the youngest-ever England international was Theo Walcott (then at Arsenal) when he appeared in England's 3-1 friendly win over Hungary at Old Trafford, Manchester, aged 17 years and 75 days, on 30 May 2006.

These "facts" are wrong!

Both honours can be claimed by 15-year-old, Jarrow lass Mary Lyons (1902-79) when she made her England debut in front of 20,000 people at St. James' Park, Newcastle, in 1918 and netted at the end of the first half resulting in a 3-2 win against Scotland.

Mary was born to Irish-born parents on 2 September 1902, at 120 Queens Road, Jarrow, then in County Durham. Mary's father, Patrick, and six brothers were employed at Palmer's shipyard. The youngest of eight children, Mary also had a sister. 

After leaving school at 14 in 1916, Mary joined Palmers Munitions Factory where bait-time kick-abouts led to her being asked to play for Palmers Girls. 

Mary's skills rapidly gained the attention of newspaper sporting columns. In 1918, aged only 15, she was poached by the mighty Blyth Spartans Ladies - the best woman's team in the region at the time - for The Munitionettes' Cup against Bolckow, Vaughan & Co., Ltd. at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough.


Mary led Blyth Spartans Ladies to victory, scoring in their 5-0 victory, and winning the "Woman of the Match" accolade.

In addition, Mary took the 'Palmers' team from a scratch side to the best in the region, bringing The Munitionettes' Cup to Jarrow a year later in 1919.

She was only 17 years old.


Palmers team
Mary Lyons, probably aged 17, centre with the ball at her feet, pictured with her Palmers teammates.


The matronly figure, wearing white, is Mrs Ornsby the Female Factory Superintendent.

Discover more

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Mary Lyons (1902-79)

England's youngest ever football international. 


History: Jarrow

The Geordie lass who blazed a trail in football... (2018).

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