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:
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15 Dave Beasant - Newcastle United
Regarded by many Toon supporters as the worst goalkeeper Newcastle have ever had, Dave Beasant had a calamitous debut, having joined the club off the back of a successful nine years at Wimbledon, where he won a shock FA Cup. Beasant's Newcastle debut came at Goodison Park, away to Everton. He conceded after 33 seconds and the game ended in a 4-0 defeat for the Magpies. He played another 19 games for Newcastle but never looked steady between the sticks, and was moved on to Chelsea after less than a year in the North East.
14 Garry Flitcroft - Blackburn Rovers
Having briefly captained Manchester City and won the club's Player of the Year award in 1993, Garry Flitcroft left the Citizens in 1995 to join Blackburn Rovers. His debut was just about as disastrous as they come, with Flitcroft shown a red card and handed his marching orders after just three minutes on the pitch. Despite the setback, he bounced back, and went on to spend 10 years with the club, playing more than 250 games and captaining the team.
13 Edcarlos - Benfica
Brazilian central defender Edcarlos joined Benfica in 2007 surrounded by much anticipation. With a growing reputation from his time at Sao Paolo, where he had become a regular for Brazil's under-20s team, Edcarlos - it was hoped - would become a big player in Europe. He arrived to replace the sturdy and reliable Anderson, who had joined Lyon, and Edcarlos was anything but sturdy and reliable. In his debut against Nacional, Edcarlos twice let the opposition through in on goal, once due to failing to trap the ball and once due to completely misreading a header. He played 15 more games before being promptly loaned back to Brazil.
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.
Iwelumo somehow managed to miss from three yards out, it was a nightmare debut and the striker said he watched the miss over and over again. He won a further three caps for his country but will sadly to immortalized by 'that' miss.
11 Zlatan Ibrahimovic - AC Milan
From a striker currently plying his trade in the fifth tier of English football to one of the finest marksmen in the world, but that didn't stop Zlatan Ibrahimovic from having an equally miserable debut. After disagreements with the management at Barcelona, Zlatan returned to Serie A, on-loan, in a move that would later become permanent. The Swede's debut wasn't one to remember though. He didn't look his usual self and Milan slumped to a surprise 2-0 defeat at the hands of Cesana. To make matters worse, Ibrahimovic had the chance to put Milan right back in the game with a penalty, but even managed to put that wide of the target.
10 Rio Ferdinand - Leeds United
Huge transfer fees almost always lead to greater expectation, and with that, comes greater pressure. That pressure seemed all too much for a 22-year-old Rio Ferdinand in his Leeds United debut. The England defender joined the Yorkshire club from West Ham for around $35 million, but his debut was a day to forget, as Leeds conceded three first half goals again as Leicester and Ferdinand had a torrid game. He did bounce back, having two strong years for Leeds before being signed by Manchester United in an even bigger money move.
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.
To make matters worse, his first game back after serving his suspension, Repka was sent off again. He did go on to have a decent career at West Ham, playing around 200 games over six years, but his record of 19 career red cards is up there with the highest of all time.
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.
He joined the Potters on-loan from Celtic, and his first game for the club came away at Stoke. Marshall saw six goals fly past him that day, with many believing the Scottish shot stopper was at fault for four of them. He played nine more games for Stoke before returning to Scotland.
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.
Crowe was handed his debut as a substitute in the League Cup against Birmingham, and was sent off exactly 33 seconds after coming on. It is the fastest debut sending off in English football history. Crowe never played another game for the Gunners, and went on to play in the lower leagues with the likes of Grimsby and Northampton.
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.
The game began with some fiery tackles, and the new boss couldn't keep his cool. A vicious first half tackle on George McCluskey earnt Souness an early bath, prompting a mass on-field brawl, and 21 of the 22 players were booked that day, as Rangers lost 2-1.
5 Stanley Milton - Halifax Town
The third and final goalkeeping debut to make this list, and by far the oldest. The game between Stockport County and Halifax Town on January 6th, 1934 stands as a tale of two debuts. Stanley Milton was making his debut in goal for Halifax, while Joe Hill made his debut for Stockport as a forward. At halftime, Stockport were two goals up, but the game was not particularly noteworthy. By full-time, the score was 13-0, a Football League record that still stands to this day. Milton had recorded the heaviest defeat in Football League history on his debut, whilst Hill bagged a hat trick on his.
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.
Ali Dia made his debut coming on as a first half substitute for Saints legend Matt Le Tissier, and it was very clear he wasn't a Premier League footballer. He was himself later substituted and released by the club. Le Tissier described the incident as "very embarrassing to watch".
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.
Messi saw red. His international debut was marked by a sending off just two minutes after he entered the field of play. Messi was found crying in the dressing room after the game, and was reportedly and unsurprisingly distraught following the incident. Of course, Messi's quality was such that he couldn't be kept out the side for long, and aged 28, Messi has to date won 105 caps for Argentina, scoring 49 goals.
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.
In what is probably the most infamous and well-known debut in footballing history, Woodgate had a disastrous Los Blancos debut against Athletic Bilbao. The Englishman looked clumsy and error-prone. He kicked off his debut with an own goal before being sent off after his second yellow. It was a shocker of comical proportions. Woodgate went on to have some good games for Madrid but injuries prevented him from ever becoming a first team regular. He now plays in the Championship for boyhood club Middlesbrough.
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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