The Premier League-bound Braiden Graham is already justifying Everton’s faith with an ‘incredible’ impact off the bench during Linfield’s dramatic Northern Ireland League Cup quarter-final victory over Larne on Tuesday night.
After becoming the youngest goalscorer in Linfield’s 137-year history a few months ago, Braiden Graham doubled his tally in senior football this week. And in some style too
The 16-year-old striker scored a stunning goal of the bench in the 118th minute against Larne, and then followed that up in the resulting penalty shoot-out at David Healy’s side secured their spot in the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland League Cup.
Graham, according to the Belfast Telegraph, will become an Everton player in the summer. The Toffees fought off competition from perennial gold-panners Brighton and Hove Albion.
And he will got to Goodison Park with the praise of Northern Ireland’s greatest-ever goalscorer ringing in his ears.
“I was directly behind it (Graham’s extra-time equaliser). And as soon as it fell to him, I knew (he would score),” David Healy, the country’s all-time top scorer and now the head coach of Linfield, tells the Telegraph.
“He made his debut against Dungannon months ago and people asked; ‘What does he give you?’ Well, Braiden scores goals. And that was an incredible finish for such a young lad.”
It’s not just Graham’s explosive finishing but his bravery which warmed Healy’s heart. The teenager stepping up and putting himself forward ahead of a tense penalty shoot-out. And justifying his self-confidence with a well-taken spot-kick.
“Braiden Graham desperately wanted to take one,” Healy smiles. “It shows (the youngsters) have belief in their ability and confidence.”
Graham is one of a number of talented youngsters who could be about to cross the Irish Sea. Sam Curtis, the PFAI Young Player of the Year, is a target for the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City. Ditto St Patricks Athletic team-mate Mason Melia.