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Jonathan Woodgate And The Most Memorable Debuts in Football History

Jonathan Woodgate is unveiled at Real Madrid in 2005
Jonathan Woodgate is unveiled at Real Madrid in 2005

As the saying goes you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression and in football this is probably more so than in any other walk of life due to the fact that you have thousands of people watching your every move; not to mention the fact that your employer has probably paid millions for your services.

So here is a look at some of the more memorable debuts in the history of the game, some good, some bad, some just downright bizarre.

Ali Dia for Southampton, 1996

Probably the most bizarre and short-lived career in the history of the Premier League began and ended on November 22, 1996 when Ali Dia ran out for his Southampton debut at The Dell. The story goes that Saints manager Graeme Souness received a phone call from AC Milan star George Weah to tell him about his cousin, Dia, who was a promising player in his own right.

Apparently Dia had played for Paris Saint-Germain as well as being capped 13 times by Senegal and was looking for another shot at the big time after languishing in the second-tier of German football. However, Weah was little more than a blagger and Dia was not much better having only played for Blyth Spartans in the Unibond League. So when he came on as substitute to replace Matthew Le Tissier in the game with Leeds United it only took 22 minutes for the penny to drop before a furious and no doubt red-faced Souness took him off again.  

Jonathan Woodgate for Real Madrid, 2005

Jonathan Woodgate’s first appearance for Real Madrid having signed from Newcastle United for £13.4million in 2004 would be memorable to say the least, only for all the wrong reasons. Riddled with injury Woodgate wouldn’t make his debut for the Galacticos until a year after joining in September 2005 as things went from bad to worse.

Against Athletico Madrid he scored an own goal in the first half while also receiving a yellow card, only to pick up a second yellow before being sent-off in the 65th minute of his debut in what would prove to be something of a microcosm of his career at The Bernabéu, as several brief decent spells were all too often punctuated by long periods on the sidelines.

Warren Barton for England, 1995

Warren Barton was a promising full-back looking to press for a place at Euro ’96 when England travelled to Dublin for an international friendly; but unfortunately for the Wimbledon defender many of England’s fans that night weren’t in the mood to be friendly.

It was supposed to be the biggest night of his life with 20 members of his family travelling to the Irish capital Dublin to watch; but the match was abandoned after 27 minutes amid a flurry of missiles which were being thrown from the England section, robbing Barton of a night that should have been the highlight of his career and possibly even costing him a place at Euro ’96 despite receiving his first cap.

Fabrizio Ravanelli for Middlesbrough, 1996

In 1996 newly promoted Middlesbrough had money to burn and manager Bryan Robson was in the mood to spend, spend, spend, with the likes of Juninho, Emerson and Fabrizio Ravanelli all rocking-up on Teesside. And the Boro fans didn’t have to wait long to see just what their new heroes could offer the club with Liverpool arriving at The Riverside on the opening day of the 1996/97 season.

In a six-goal thriller which eventually saw the points shared the “White Feather” as he was known quickly justified his £7million price tag by banging in a hat-trick on his first appearance for his new club, forever endearing himself to the supporters who probably thought they had died and gone to heaven before eventually being brought back down to earth with a bump as Robson’s men were relegated that May.

Rio Ferdinand for Leeds, 2000

When Rio Ferdinand moved to Leeds from West Ham in 2000 he became the most expensive defender in the world at a cool £18million and despite going on to become one of the country’s best stoppers his first taste of the big time didn’t appear to promise much.

Playing away at Leicester’s old Filbert Street home the Foxes romped to a three-goal lead as Ferdinand looked visibly out of his depth and despite the home fans revelling in the occasion and serenading the newcomer with: “What a waste of money,” Leeds boss David O’Leary obviously saw potential in his latest signing claiming that he was, “delighted with Rio, but he didn't get a lot of help from those around him.”

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