Making your debut for a new club is a nerve-wracking situation at any level of football, whether it’s in front of 80,000 at the Santiago Bernabeu or 250 in the Beazer Homes League. For some players it can be the start of a long love affair with their new club but for others, it can be the stuff of nightmares.
Here’s an unlucky 13 who got off to a horrendous start…
JONATHAN WOODGATE – REAL MADRID
Jonathan Woodgate’s debut at Real Madrid is the benchmark in which all others are measured. He had over 12 months to prepare for his debut in the Spanish capital having joined Real from Newcastle for just over £13m back in the summer of 2004.
Injuries had always curtailed his career and that didn’t change in his first season at the Bernabeu, so when he finally pulled on the famous white shirt in September 2005 in a Liga match against Athletic Bilbao, the spotlight was well and truly upon him.
After 24 minutes the white handkerchiefs were already out after Woodgate had scored a brilliant own-goal and he got the chance to receive the full wrath of the home fans when he was sent-off just after the hour mark. When Spanish sports journal Marca ran a poll to find the worst signings of the 21st century, guess who came top?
GERVINHO – ARSENAL
The man with the spaghetti hairdo had Gunners fans salivating when he scored twice on his debut in a pre-season match against FC Koln. When it came to making his full league debut at St James’ Park a few weeks later, however, an altercation with Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton saw the Ivorian receive his marching orders, allowing him more time to go house hunting in North London thanks to a three-match ban.
Gervi never really fired on all cylinders at the Emirates, saving his best form for Italian giants Roma where his impressive form made him the darling (for a brief time) of the Curva Sud.
HENRIK LARSSON – CELTIC
Henrik Larsson is a bonafide Celtic legend, but at the start of his career at Parkhead the Swedish superstar had to endure huge amounts of stick.
When he came on as a sub for his debut, he promptly gifted Hibernian a 2-1 victory before putting through his own net on his European bow. His first season in Scotland was pretty forgettable, and who would have thought back in 1997 that he would go on to become one of the club’s greatest ever players?
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GARRY FLITCROFT – BLACKBURN ROVERS
Rovers’ supporters were delighted when Garry Flitcroft made the short journey to Ewood Park from Manchester City in the summer of 1996. Three minutes into his debut against Everton, however, the £3m chairman Jack Walker had forked out for the midfielder looked to be money down the drain when he was sent-off for getting involved in a scrap with Everton striker Duncan Ferguson.
Rather cruelly, the following morning’s match reports were quick to point out that Flitcroft had cost his side £1m for every minute he’d been on the pitch, but that was soon forgotten and he would go on to captain the Lancashire side.
WAYNE BRIDGE – WEST HAM UNITED
Wayne Bridge joined the Hammers on-loan from Manchester City in 2011 and was thrown in at the deep-end against Arsenal. His first-half performance was the stuff of nightmares after being at fault for both of their opening two goals.
Things didn’t improve after the interval either when the full-back gave away a penalty to round off a truly forgettable day at the office.
GLENN KEELEY – EVERTON
Making your debut is hard enough but when it comes in a local derby it’s even tougher. Spare a thought then for Everton’s Glenn Keeley, who marked his first start in a blue shirt by getting sent-off after just half an hour against a Liverpool side who would go on to win the match 5-0.
In 1982 the Anfield club were the best in Europe and on-loan Glenn paid the price for his pull-back on Kenny Dalglish by never playing for the Toffees ever again.
JASON CROWE – ARSENAL
Jason who? It’s safe to say this player did not live long in Arsenal fans’ memories. His fifteen minutes of Gunners fame came in a League Cup tie against Birmingham City in 1997 when he came off the bench in extra-time to try to influence the game. 33 seconds later, he was heading back to the dressing-rooms having been sent off by referee Uriah Rennie.
After departing North London, Crowe had spells at Portsmouth, Grimsby and Northampton Town but his dismissal 23 years ago remains among the quickest in English football history.
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ALI DIA – SOUTHAMPTON
Graeme Souness is one of the most respected pundits on TV so the question has always been; why did he fall for a phone call from someone claiming to be the great George Weah who recommended he take a look at his cousin Ali Dia?
When the former Liverpool and Scotland midfielder gave Dia his Southampton debut as a substitute against Leeds, it was obvious to all and sundry that he’d been set up. After ten excruciating minutes, Souness pulled the plug and Dia was never seen again at The Dell. Weah later admitted that he had no idea who Ali Dia was.
EMMANUEL FRIMPONG – BARNSLEY
The South Yorkshire town may not be the number one place for hipsters to visit but even so, Ghanaian international Emmanuel Frimpong got off on completely the wrong foot when he joined the club from Arsenal in 2014 and in his first press-conference asked; “How am I gonna draw girls now?”
Having claimed later that it was a joke, the knives were already out when he made his Barnsley debut which lasted precisely 30 minutes after Frimpong received a second yellow card, surpassing his debut for the Gunners which lasted slightly longer. Nine games later he was gone and almost forgotten, until he started making a name for himself on Twitter as his career ground to a halt.
TOMAS REPKA – WEST HAM UNITED
It’s another horror show in claret and blue and this time for Czech defender Tomas Repka, who arrived at West Ham for £5.5m from Fiorentina in 2001 with a reputation for enjoying the rough stuff on the pitch, so it was a surprise to no one when he was sent-off on his Hammers debut against Middlesbrough.
After sitting out the next match with his new employers, Repka then received an early bath on his third appearance for the East London club. The no-nonsense centre-half was dismissed 20 times in his professional career and made a name for himself in 2007 after returning to his homeland where he attacked officials and a cameraman whilst representing Sparta Prague.
DAVE BEASANT – NEWCASTLE UNITED
Beasant’s performances with Wimbledon, including helping them lift the FA Cup in 1988, saw him secure a dream move to Newcastle. The big custodian had a reputation for having one of the safest pairs of hands in the game, but just 33 seconds into his Magpies debut at Goodison Park that reputation was tarnished as Everton’s Tony Cottee pounced on a mistake to put the hosts in front.
Beasant ended up picking the ball out of his net on four occasions that day and it was downhill from then on. He shot to fame once more in the early 1990’s when he was sidelined for eight weeks after dropping a jar of salad cream on his big toe.
RIO FERDINAND – LEEDS UNITED
He’s now regarded as one of England’s most accomplished centre-halves of the Premier League era but back at the beginning of the century, Rio Ferdinand had a debut to forget for Leeds away at Leicester City.
Having just splashed out £18m to make him British football’s most expensive player, the West Yorkshire side and in particular Ferdinand, were made to look stupid by a rampant Leicester who found themselves three-up before the half-hour mark. As Filbert Street echoed to the sound of “What a waste of money”, nobody could have envisaged Rio going on to have a trophy-laden career at Manchester United.
CURTIS DAVIES – ASTON VILLA
Eight years after Ferdinand’s horror show, Curtis Davies was tipped for superstardom following three impressive years at The Hawthorns with West Bromwich Albion.
When Aston Villa won the race to sign him in 2007, the Holte End got ready to salute their new hero as he lined-up against Leicester in a League Cup tie.
But by the full-time whistle, fans were left scratching their heads wondering what all the hype had been about, after Davies was taken off in a 1-0 defeat, admitting afterwards that his performance was “like that of a pub player”. He did however finally win over the doubters, spending three years at Villa Park.
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