Football has a million
and one stories and just as many facts and figures. Here are a few of them
- the record-breaking, unusual and bizarre.
Did You Knows...
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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 impressive debut north of
the border came on 2nd January 1930 in the Scottish League Second Division
match between King's Park and Forfar Athletic. Jim Dyet was making his
club debut for King's Park - a club based in Stirling - and scored 8 goals
in the 12-2 victory, a British record for a player making his debut in a
League match. King's Park had joined the Scottish League in 1921/22 and
remained in that division until 1938/39 when the competition was suspended
due to the war. Bomb damage to their ground saw them go bust which led
later to the formation of Stirling Albion.
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!
When Tony Cottee made his League
debut for Everton he was the most expensive purchase by a British club
following his £2.2 million move from West Ham to Goodison. He needed to
impress in his debut - and he did against Newcastle on August 27th 1988
scoring after 34 seconds and completing a hat-trick in Everton's 4-0 win.
They say that the first rule of
success is to make the most of every opportunity as it comes along.
Eighteen-year-old Marcus Rashford only made the starting line-up for his
Manchester United debut after team-mate Anthony Martial suffered an injury
in the pre-match warm-up against FC Midtjylland on 25th February 2016.
United started their Europa League Last 16 Second Leg tie at Old Trafford
2-1 down to the Danes and soon went a further goal behind but two goals
from Rashford helped the Reds to a comfortable 5-1 victory on the night.
Those goals saw him break a record held by George Best for over 50 years
by becoming the youngest United player to score in European competition.
Three days later he scored another two in the 3-2 Premier League victory
over Arsenal at the Theatre of Dreams. Those goals brought him another
record - the youngest player to score a goal on his League debut for
Manchester United. By the end of those three days everyone had heard of
Marcus Rashford. A legend in the making....time will tell!
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 as manager 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.
Bob Blanthorne’s debut
for Newcastle United against Bradford City on the opening day of the
1908/09 League season was memorable for the wrong reason. It lasted just
ten minutes before he broke his leg and that proved to be the only time he
played in the first team in his two and a half years at the club.
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 6-3 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).
One player who did hear some invaluable words before
his debut for Manchester City at Bolton on Saturday November 19th 1949 was
goalkeeper Bert Trautmann. The former German prisoner-of-war was a figure
of hatred when he first signed up at Maine Road but City captain Eric
Westwood made him feel welcome - 'There's no war in this dressing room.
We welcome you as any other member of staff. Make yourself at home...and
good luck.' We went on to make 545 League and Cup appearances for
Manchester City and became a folklore legend when injured in the 1956 FA
Cup Final -
Some debuts seem a little strange
don't they? An example was the debut of former Brazil World Cup captain
Sócrates for his only English club on 20th November 2004. At the time he
was 50, had been retired from playing for 15 years and he turned out for Garforth
Town. He came on as a late sub in the Northern Counties East Football
League match between Garforth and Tadcaster Albion and those 12 minutes
proved to be the only time he turned out for his club. As the Garforth
boss explained 'I
decided not to play him in the next game because his warm-up had consisted
of drinking two bottles of Budweiser and three cigarettes which we had in
the changing rooms. I didn't think it was a good idea for him to carry on
playing too much more though he was keen to."
can get better.... When George Hardwick played his first match in the
Football League - for Middlesbrough against Bolton at Ayresome Park on
December 18th 1937 - he scored an own goal with his first touch of the
ball in the first minute of the match! He later wrote in his
autobiography, 'I wanted the hallowed turf to swallow me up and take me
well away from the place.' He later went on to captain club and
country and now has a statue to commemorate him at Middlesbrough's
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.
After a £13,000 move from Bradford Park Avenue to
Newcastle United Len Shackleton made his debut for the Magpies in a
Division 2 match against Newport County on 5th October 1946 in front of a
St James' Park crowd of 52,137. Despite missing a penalty within 90
seconds Newcastle proceeded to equal the highest score in Football League
history with a 13-0 victory with new-boy Shackleton scoring six of them. A
perfect debut or what!
Swindon Town could hardly have hoped for a better debut in the
Football League as in their first match in the competition, on Saturday
August 28th 1930, they defeated Luton Town 9-1. The result is still their
best League victory to this day. Mind you they soon came down to earth,
losing the return Third Division fixture at Luton, played a week later, 0-2.
New Brighton's Neil McBain made his League debut for the club in 1947 - 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, which was his only League appearance for the
Merseyside club, 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.
Another golden oldie making his debut was Andy Cunningham in his first
match for Newcastle United, against Leicester City in a Division 1 fixture
at St James' Park on February 2nd 1929. At 38 years and 2 days old he was
the oldest player ever to make his debut in the Football League. The
Scottish international, a £2,300 buy from Rangers, later became
Newcastle's player-manager and was probably the first player-manager to
grace the top division.
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.
Last but not least the story about a
near debut! On
November 23rd 2002 Manchester City manager Kevin Keegan was about to bring
on as substitute the 20-year-old Joey Barton in the Premier League defeat
against Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium for what would have been
his senior debut. But then Barton discovered that he had lost his shirt!
He had left it in the dugout at half time and it seems that a Boro fan had
lifted it in his absence – and there was no spare!. The rules were clear,
he had to wear a shirt with his squad number – 41 – on it to play and so
without it it was Ali Benarbia who Keegan brought on as the sub. Joey
Barton had to wait until April 5th 2003 before making his first team
debut, against Bolton in the Premier League. And then a lot more stories