As the fall-out from the BBC Panorama investigation grows, Tony Kearney profiles the young North-East player at the centre of "'tapping up" allegations.

LESS than a week ago, Nathan Porritt could only dream of achieving the fame enjoyed by the likes of Stewart Downing or Jonathan Woodgate.

Today, the 16-year-old starlet is making more headlines than any of the more senior members of the Middlesbrough squad, unwittingly thrust to the centre of the bungs scandal which is engulfing football.

Although largely unknown by most fans, Porritt is regarded inside the game as one of the brightest prospects in English football, a talent which, according to Panorama, has brought the biggest clubs in the country knocking at his door.

The Football Association has announced they are investigating allegations, aired in Tuesday's Panorama programme on BBC, that Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle United made illegal approaches to entice the player, then aged just 15, away from his home-town club.

The programme alleged that Chelsea offered £150,000 to Porritt, through his agent Peter Harrison, who also told an undercover reporter that the Magpies had met the player without Boro's knowledge.

The allegations have catapulted the player into the national spotlight, even though he is yet to kick a ball in the Premier League.

Insiders at Boro say the left-winger, who is equally at home as an out-and-out striker, is a better player than England star Downing was at the same stage of his development.

One said: "There has been a real buzz about Nathan Porritt for quite a few years now and, without wanting to put too much pressure on the lad, its the same sort of buzz as there was about Joe Cole at West Ham."

His talent was spotted at a very early age. At ten, he joined Middlesbrough FC's Academy, while continuing his full-time education at King's Academy in Coulby Newham.

During his time at King's, the player won seven caps with England Under-16s and he has now broken into the Under-17s side, scoring twice in his eight appearances.

Once the allegations began to surface, staff at King's Academy declined to comment on their former pupil's time at the school, but last year principal Chris Drew said: "Nathan is one of our stars and we're delighted and proud that he's doing so well.

"He's immensely talented and has a great future ahead of him in football, if that's the career he decides to pursue."

In the summer, he signed a two-year scholarship deal with Middlesbrough's Academy, based at the Hurworth training ground.

Although yet to win a first-team place at Boro, he has become a regular in the club's youth and reserve sides, appearing in the club's second-string fixtures, played at Arngrove Northern League side Billingham Synthonia's home ground.

A club spokesman said: "He's making good progress and he's one of 19 England youth internationals at the club, so he's not unique, but an excellent young player.

"He's one of many talented young players at the club who need to work hard to keep progressing to fulfil their potential."