souvenir programme and national media coverage for an 'A' team match
between Notts County and Nottingham Forest. Yes it happened on 10th
February 1979 when Trevor Francis, who had just become Britain's first £1
million footballer after his move from Birmingham City to Nottingham
Forest, made his debut for Forest in a Midland Intermediate League match.
manager, the great Brian Clough, wanted to ensure that his debut was in
the sort of surroundings that would keep his feet firmly on the ground.
Francis made his League debut a couple of weeks later, coming on as a sub
for Martin O’Neill against Bristol City at the City Ground. His signing
in February meant that he was ineligible to play in Europe until Forest
reached the European Cup final in May and he repaid much of that fee by
scoring the only goal in the defeat of Malmo in Munich.
Goalkeeper Tony Coton was
an instant hit with the Birmingham City fans when he made his debut for
the Blues against Sunderland on Saturday December 27th 1980. Within a
minute Blues defender Joe Gallagher gave away a penalty and Coton's first
touch of the ball on his debut was to save John Hawley's spot-kick.
North of the border Belgian Marc de
Clerck made a perfect debut for Aberdeen against Berwick Rangers in a
Scottish League Cup match at Shielfield Park on Saturday 30th August 1980.
Not only did he keep a clean sheet in Aberdeen's 4-0 win but he scored a
goal in the 22nd minute, a long clearance bouncing over the Berwick keeper
into the back of the net.
Another goalkeeper didn't
have such an enjoyable debut. When Stanley Milton made his debut for
Halifax Town against Stockport County in Division 3 (North) on Saturday
January 6th 1934 he was on the wrong end of a 13-0 defeat, a record
scoreline in a Football League match!
Stanley Milton must surely have wished that his debut could have been
wiped from the records just as fellow 'keeper Jim Brown's debut in the
Football League was nearly 40 years later. Chesterfield had signed Jim
Brown from Albion Rovers on December 22nd 1972 but the letter registering
the player with the Football League was delayed in the Christmas post and
didn't arrive until two days after he had made his Boxing Day debut for
Chesterfield. In that match Chesterfield had won 1-0 at Blackburn in a
Division 3 fixture but as he was unregistered and so ineligible to play
the match was declared void and had to be replayed in March - Jim Brown
again helping Chesterfield to a 1-0 victory, but this time it counted!
I'm sure that there has not been anyone making his managerial debut who
would even have dreamed of making the debut that Bill Nicholson made. On
Saturday 11th October 1958 in his first match in charge of Tottenham - in
fact his first match in charge of any club - he saw his side defeat
Everton 10-4 in a First Division match at White Hart Lane. So it was
downhill from then on....!
I'm sure that every player making a
high-profile debut wants to be remembered for playing a blinder, but not
always so. When Jimmy Bullard moved from Fulham to Hull City in January
2009 the £5 million the Tigers paid for him was a club record amount. He
made his debut against West Ham in the Premier League on January 28th 2009
but lasted less than a hour before being forced off with a knee injury.
And it it wasn't just an ordinary knee injury but a cruciate ligament
problem which kept him out of first-team football until October 2009.
Tom 'Pongo' Waring made his debut for Aston Villa in February 1928 it
was for the reserves in a Central League match. But hardly low-profile
though with the match at Villa Park being against local rivals Birmingham
and a crowd of 23,667 witnessing him score a hat-trick in the 6-2 victory.
He went on to become a Villa legend scoring 159 goals in 216 League
appearances including a club record 49 League goals in the 1930/31 season.
debut made by David Beckham hit the headlines, none more so than his first
match for Paris St-Germain against Marseille on Sunday February 24th 2013.
Saint David had agreed to donate his PSG pay to a children's charity while
in the Marseille line-up was exiled English bad-boy Joey Barton. That was
a gift for the headline writers and the front page of the leading French
football mag billed the meeting as Beckham v Barton, Ange et Demon.
It almost ended in anti-climax with Le Spice Boy not coming on as a sub
until just 16 minutes from the end. But he got an assist in the second
goal in PSG's 2-0 victory.
Nowadays you would think that a player making
his League debut would know everything about how he would fit into his own
team and about the opposition. Such was not always the case. When Jack
Charlton made his debut for Leeds United against Doncaster in April 1953
he waited in vain in the dressing room before the kick off for his manager Raich Carter to give him some guidance as what he should be doing in the
match. As he was about to leave the dressing room he finally asked Carter
what he wanted him to do. The manager thought for a moment and said 'See
how fast their centre forward can limp.'
Jimmy Greaves was another player who didn't
receive any tactical advice before his League debut for Chelsea in 1957.
Despite having managed Chelsea to the League title Ted Drake's pre-match
encouragement was generally to wish the team 'all the best.' Mind you that
didn't seem to hamper Jimmy Greaves. He scored on his League debut for
Chelsea (against Spurs on August 23rd 1957) and made scoring debuts for
every senior team he played for - England Under 23s (against Bulgaria on
September 25th 1957), England (against Peru on May 17th 1959), AC Milan
(against Botafogo on June 7th 1961), Spurs (against Blackpool on December
16th 1961) and for West Ham (against Manchester City on March 20th 1970).
When Ralph Brown played his first match for Aston Villa
it was not only his debut but also the only first team match he played for
the club. He finished on the losing but still picked an honour most
footballers only dream of. He was in the side that lost 2-0 at Rotherham
on Tuesday August 22nd 1961 in the first leg of the League Cup Final held
over from the previous season. Without him Villa won 3-0 in the second leg
to win the trophy which allowed him to be presented with a winners tankard
(not medals in those days).
Jonathan Woodgate signed for Real Madrid from
Newcastle in August 2004 but injuries prevented him from making his
competitive debut for Real until September 22nd 2005 against Athletic
Bilbao. And what a debut it was - he scored an own-goal and was sent off
after 65 minutes for his second yellow card. In 2007 he was voted the
worst signing by a Spanish club in the 21st century.
Another player who made a less than perfect debut was
Jason Crowe. After replacing Lee Dixon in Arsenal's 4-1 Coca-Cola Cup
victory over Birmingham in October 1997 he lasted just 33 seconds before
being sent off by ref Uriah Rennie for a high tackle.
When Neil McBain made his League debut in 1947
for New Brighton - then in Division 3 (North) - he made history. In his
prime he was an excellent centre-half who had played three times for
Scotland but his prime had long gone - he was 51 years and 4 months old
when he made his debut, as an emergency goalkeeper! McBain was manager of
New Brighton and team selection problems meant that he had to select
himself between the posts for the match at Hartlepools United on Saturday
March 15th 1947. Hartlepools won 3-0 but McBain had an excellent match.
Neil McBain made his first-class debut for Ayr United in 1915 which meant
that his playing career spanned an amazing 32 years.
seem to be getting plenty of mentions in this section. For a goalkeeper
making his first team debut in an FA Cup semi-final against a club chasing
the double and in front of a record crowd perhaps you he be hoping for a
bit of luck - as well as a good defence in front of him! Sadly Grimsby
Town's goalkeeper George Moulson luck deserted him when playing for the
Mariners against Wolves in the semi-final on Saturday 25th March 1939 in
front of a 76,962 Old Trafford crowd, still a record attendance for that
ground. He only got his place in the side shortly before the match when
regular keeper George Tweedy dropped out with a bout of flu but his debut
lasted just 20 minutes before he was carried off with concussion after
diving at the feet of Wolves forward Dickie Dorsett. With no substitutes
in those days Grimsby put outfield player Jack Hodgson in goal but with 10
men they lost 5-0.