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First Eleven – Disastrous Debuts

February 7, 2011

First impressions are a hard thing to get back especially when they don’t go so well. In an instant people can assume you’re an idiot, unorganised, a chauvinistic pig or just a massive weirdo.

For footballers, the consequences of a bad first impression can be horrendous. They can define, haunt and ruin careers before they have had a real chance to get going. No matter the success and glory that they may go on to enjoy with a team, an own goal or a sending off on their debut will always be brought up; for years and years.

With Andy Carroll’s Liverpool debut still weeks away and in light of Fernando Torres’ rather disappointing Chelsea debut that will be remembered for defeat at the hands of his former club, we’ve put together an unparalleled line-up of the worst debuts in footballing history.

Captain: #4 Mark van Bommel

Mark van Bommel doesn’t strike me a man that cares about any impression that he makes on people so he is the perfect choice to lead out this team. Just last weekend, the Dutch midfielder who doesn’t shy away from a single challenge, was sent off in his first game in Serie A for Milan. Having left Bayern Munich by mutual consent, the battling midfielder was given his marching orders for two silly challenges.

Goalkeeper: #1 Michael Theoklitos

Norwich City started the 2009-10 season with new signing Michael Theoklitos as the club’s first choice goalkeeper. On August 8th, the Australian endured a disastrous debut for Norwich against Colchester United, conceding five goals before half-time and seven in total. He missed his punch for the first goal, palmed a shot straight into the path of Clive Platt for the second and failed to save a free-kick for the fourth. The game was his only league appearance for Norwich and he unsurprisingly left the club seven months later. He currently plays for Brisbane Roar in the A-League.

Right-back: #2 Jason Crowe

When Jason Crowe made his debut for Arsenal in the League Cup back in 1997, he knew he needed to make an impact. With the reliable Lee Dixon ahead of him in the pecking order, Crowe had a task on his hands if he were to earn a starting berth for the Gunners. Unsurprisingly, he made the wrong kind of impact; a negative one. A red card just 33 seconds after coming on as a sub – an English record – didn’t do him any favours. He played twice more for Arsenal before going to Crystal Palace on loan and then Portsmouth.

Left-back: #3 Wayne Bridge

Poor Wayne Bridge. Having been frozen out at Manchester City, with boss Roberto Mancini seemingly happy to pick anyone and everyone ahead of him at left-back, he searched out for a way out and seemingly got it with West Ham. Unfortunately for him, his debut was the definition of a ‘nightmare.’ The former England full-back had a torrid time up against Theo Walcott, failed with his attempted four tackles in the whole game and was at blame for all three goals that Arsenal scored in the game.

Centre half: #5 Curtis Davies

Curtis Davies made his Aston Villa debut in a 1-0 Carling Cup defeat at the hands of Championship side Leicester City. Following the match, the highly-touted defender knew it was such a bad performance that he didn’t even bother to make any excuses. “I didn’t contribute anything,” admitted Davies. “I’ve been bigging myself up, saying I’m ready and obviously I’m not. I’m honest with myself in every performance and that was rubbish – I looked like a pub team player.” He does the describing for me.

Centre half: #6 Jonathan Woodgate

As if you don’t know what happened when Jonathan Woodgate debuted for Real Madrid. Having signed from Newcastle for a whopping £13.4 million, Woodgate managed to injure himself in training and delay his first game for Los Blancos for a year. Once the game finally arrived, things were horribly for the Englishman. He scored own goal and got sent off for two bookings but still managed to walk off the pitch to a standing ovation thanks to the great relationship he had built up with the Real fans.

Central midfielder: #7 Graeme Souness

When Graeme Souness was appointed as Rangers’ first player-manager in 1986, he no doubt wanted to start his time at the club in the best possible fashion. Not only trying to endear himself to his new colleagues but also his new playing staff, the battling midfielder showed he was completed committed to the cause; and was sent off after 34 minutes.

Central midfielder: #8 Garry Flitcroft

Not quite as quickly as Jason Crowe, but Garry Flitcroft’s Blackburn Rovers career didn’t start well as he was sent off within three minutes. In a match against Everton, Flitcroft took on Duncan Ferguson and ended up in a very early bath. His £3 million fee from Manchester City worked out at £1 million a minute. Interestingly, Flitcroft was only signed when Rovers missed out on William Prunier who misses out on this line-up because his famous performance for Manchester United came in his second game for the club.

Striker: #9 Henrik Larsson

When Wim Jansen brought a Swedish striker sporting dreadlocks to Celtic Park, there had to have been a few Scottish football fans scratching their heads. Henrik Larsson received a rather puzzled welcome when he darted out for his debut as a substitute and with his first touch, he made a few enemies. The Swede inadvertently passed the ball to Hibernian’s Chic Charnley and he dispatched a glorious strike from 25 yards to win the game. Larsson’s European debut saw him score an own goal although from there, things went much better. He broke pretty much every goal scoring record in Scottish football with Celtic; probably enough to be forgiven for that start.

Striker: #10 Ade Akinbiyi

One can only assume that when Burnley signed Ade Akinbiyi, it was for his sheer physical presence. It was hardly because of any goal scoring prowess. But on Ade’s debut, he overstepped the mark by about a mile and lasted just two minutes. The Nigerian international head-butted Sunderland’s George McCartney and got his marching orders.

Shamble: #11 Ali Dia

Never has the term ‘footballer’ been so generously applied and never has a story been so brilliantly remembered by everyone in football. Graeme Souness, while manager of Southampton, received a call from George Weah who was quick to recommend his cousin; Ali Dia. Obviously trusting of the former World Player of the Year and never for a second considering that it may not be Weah on the other end of the phone, Souness snapped him on a one-month contract. Thanks to a waterlogged pitch calling off a reserve match and Saints legend Matt Le Tissier having to go off injured, Dia was quickly into the action and playing in the Premiership. He lasted 22 minutes on the pitch and after reporting for physio treatment the next day he was never seen again. He played eight games for his next club, Gateshead and graduated from Northumbria University in 2001.

Disastrous Debut First XI

Any thoughts and opinions on the selection? Agree or disagree? Let me know.

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