On the face of it, a debut is just one game for a new team and should be of no greater importance than any other. The fact of the matter though is that in football, debuts can be crucial. Fans, coaches, analysts and the press are always likely to scrutinize a players first game for their new club, making snap judgments on whether they're going to 'cut it' or not.
For the players themselves, a good debut can often give you a huge confidence boost, acting as a springboard and setting the tone for your time at a new team. A disastrous debut on the other hand can result in the opposite, with it taking some time for players to bounce back, and some never doing so. Wayne Rooney, Sergio Aguero and Ruud van Nistelrooy are all fine examples of players who had magnificent debuts which set the tone for their time at a new club.
This list is a collection of some of the most truly disastrous, damaging and laughable debuts in history. Some players bounced back to have wonderful careers at that club, whilst others never recovered or perhaps never even got a second chance. Here are the top 15 worst debuts in soccer history:
15 Dave Beasant - Newcastle United
14 Garry Flitcroft - Blackburn Rovers
13 Edcarlos - Benfica
12 Chris Iwelumo - Scotland
In 2008, Chris Iwelumo was 30 years old. He must have thought his chances of international football were long gone. But after showing some impressive form for Wolves, Iwelumo was called up for Scotland's qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup. He made his debut as a 57th-minute substitute, but made an impression for all the wrong reasons.
11 Zlatan Ibrahimovic - AC Milan
10 Rio Ferdinand - Leeds United
9 Tomas Repka - West Ham
Tomas Repka was a player renowned for his 'combative' approach to the game, and that is a polite way of saying he was renowned for making rash tackles, having no self-discipline and being sent off. On his West Ham debut though, one might expect the Czech international to be a little more considered in the challenge. A club record signing at $10 million, hopes were high, but Repka reverted to type and saw red after two yellow cards on his debut.
8 Gordon Marshall - Stoke City
Debuts are never easy, but if you're a goalkeeper, they can be a whole lot worse. Being the man between the sticks is the one position where mistakes are always likely to cost your team a goal, so goalkeeper's have to be especially weary when making their debuts. For Gordon Marshall at Stoke City, things did not get off to a good start.
7 Jason Crowe - Arsenal
We have seen a couple of debut sending offs, but none have been as glorious as Jason Crowe's on his Arsenal debut. Debuts can be particularly important for youngsters, who are striving to prove that they have what it takes to play in the first team and may not get too many chances to do so.
6 Graeme Souness - Rangers
Another debut red card but Graeme Souness' deserves particular focus due to the circumstances. Regarded as one of Europe's top midfielders, Souness was a real coup for Rangers, and joined the club as player-manager. When your manager is also playing, the one thing you need is a level-head and a player who leads by example.
5 Stanley Milton - Halifax Town
4 Ali Dia - Southampton
While many players on this list went on to bounce back from their woeful debuts, that was never really on the cards for one Ali Dia. Sometimes referred to as the fake footballer, Ali Dia and his friend somehow managed to convince Graeme Souness to sign Dia for Southampton, by claiming he was the cousin of Ballon d'Or winner George Weah.
3 Lionel Messi - Argentina
For a young starlet making their name on the world scene, an international debut should be an occasion of immense pride, but with it inevitably comes great pressure. At the age of 18, Messi was handed his Argentina debut against Hungary as a 63rd minute substitute. The Barcelona man was so eager to impress, but when going on one of his trademark mazy runs, Messi had his shirt pulled by an opposition player. Whilst trying to break free, Messi flung his arm back and made light contact with the Hungarian players face.
2 Jonathan Woodgate - Real Madrid
Most English football fans considered Jonathan Woodgate to be a talented but highly injury prone central defender, who was probably quite at home at a club with the stature of Newcastle United. There were a few raised eyebrows then when Real Madrid signed the England defender in 2004 in a big money move. Woodgate was even injured at the time, and it took him over a year to make his debut. When the big day did come, it was highly memorable, but not at all for the right reasons.
1 Glenn Keeley - Everton
Glenn Keeley's Everton debut was surely the worst in footballing history. Keeley joined Everton on-loan from Blackburn Rovers in 1982, and his debut was sure to be a baptism of fire for the 28-year-old central defender. The 1982 Merseyside Derby, at home to Liverpool in front of packed out crowd at Goodison Park. The type of game no player ever wants to slip up in, not least on their debut. Keeley was run ragged, especially by Liverpool forward Ian Rush.
His debut ended in shambles, and by half-time Everton were 1-0 down and Keeley had been sent off for denying Liverpool of a clear goal scoring opportunity. Liverpool went on to win the game 5-0, with Ian Rush scoring four. It's never easy to bounce back from a debut like that, having been so responsible for seeing your side thrashed by their bitterest rivals, and Keeley never did. He didn't play another game for the Toffees, returning to Blackburn where he had a respectable career.
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