Thompson back with Dale

West Brom midfielder Isaiah Brown will become the youngest
player to appear in the Premier League if he makes his debut
against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Steve Clarke has confirmed Brown will be part of his squad for
the trip to West London and he could be named on the bench at the
tender age of 16 years and 54 days.

If the England U17 international does feature at some point, he
will surpass Fulham’s Matthew Briggs’ previous record, set in 2007,
by 11 days.

Albion have been struggling with injuries and had to seek
permission to take Brown out of school to train with the squad this

The teenager has been part of Albion’s academy set-up for the
past three years, with Arsenal understood to be tracking his
progress after he impressed for their U18 and U21 sides.

He is currently studying his GCSE exams but West Brom’s recently
acquired status as a Category One academy means they can take over
young players’ academic studies.

Brown would also be Albion’s second youngest debutant if he
plays, behind only Frank Hodgetts, who was 16 years and 26 days
when he appeared against Notts Country in 1940 in a war-time

The Wales forward has been linked with Real, and their big
rivals Barca, after a stunning season that has seen him fire in 23
goals for club and country.

Madrid are thought to have made the 23-year-old their number one
transfer target, and Bale would no doubt be tempted by a move to
the nine-times European champions should they come calling this

Villas-Boas remains confident of hanging on to his man, however,
and the Tottenham boss warned Real president Fiorentino Perez he
would find it extremely hard to deal with his opposite number
Daniel Levy.

He also believes Bale can realise his aims with Spurs.

“I think for a player to develop to his full potential, it can
be done perfectly in this league,” Villas-Boas said. “I think
Gareth has that in mind, not only regarding Spurs but regarding
this league too.

“We have the best league in the world in my opinion. The best
clubs are continuing to attract the best players over.

“We don’t want Gareth to go by any circumstances. I have told
you in the past that our chairman is very, very difficult to deal

“We will try to hold on to our assets. We believe that we have
to hold on to the best players in order to achieve our

Thompson joined Tranmere Rovers from Dale last summer and has
scored twice in 22 appearances for the League One

Tranmere have the option to recall the 23-year-old after the
first 28 days of his spell at Spotland.

“Joe needs games and due to injuries and the form of other
players he’s not played as much as he would have wanted here,” said
manager Ronnie Moore on Rovers’ official website.

“This gives him the opportunity to play first team football at a
club he knows very well.”