The best Premier League Debuts

As Brentford ready themselves for their Premier League debut against Arsenal, here is a quick dip into my book, “Premier League Nuggets” to look at the most impressive performances by five clubs in their opening Premier League matches. Starting with the opening day of the inaugural season when Arsenal were also involved, taking on Norwich at Highbury. Only eleven clubs out of the 49 who have taken part in the Premier League have won their debut games whereas 14 have drawn and nearly half, 24 have lost.

 15TH AUGUST, 1992 

ARSENAL 2 (BOULD, CAMPBELL) NORWICH 4 (ROBINS 2, PHILLIPS, FOX) HIGHBURY 24,030 

Team:Bryan Gunn, Ian Culverhouse, Mark Bowen, Ian Butterworth, John Polston, Gary Megson (Ian Crook), Ruel Fox, Rob Newman, Chris Sutton (Mark Robins), Jeremy Goss, David Phillips, Manager: Mike Walker 

Life in the Premier League could hardly have started more sweetly for the Canaries. In the first match with little over 20 minutes left they were 2-0 down at Arsenal. Inspired by Mark Robins who, not content with becoming the first substitute to score in the Premier League having replaced Chris Sutton, added another in netting a brace as Norwich turned the game on its head. They scored four without reply and were the very first table toppers and the only team to win their opening fixture away from home and also by more than one goal. Robins went on to become the club’s top scorer that season with 14. Norwich finished third behind Manchester United and Aston Villa. 

7TH AUGUST, 1999 MIDDLESBROUGH 0 BRADFORD CITY 1 (SAUNDERS) RIVERSIDE STADIUM 33,762 

Team: Gary Walsh, John Dreyer, Wayne Jacobs, Gunnar Halle, Andy O’Brien, David Wetherall, Neil Redfearn, Dean Windass (Dean Saunders), Lee Mills, Gareth Whalley, Peter Beagrie, Manager: Paul Jewell 

Bradford achieved what few promoted teams have done in their first match – they won away courtesy of substitute Dean Saunders’ late strike at the Riverside for a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough. The Bantams had not been in the top division since 1922 so their survival that first season was an achievement in itself. They also managed an unusual double by scoring four goals twice but still not winning either game. Bradford survived their first season, but only just… as they had to rely on a rare David Wetherall goal on the final day to beat Liverpool and finished three points above Wimbledon. 

19TH AUGUST, 2007 READING 3 (KITSON, SIDWELL, LITA) MIDDLESBROUGH 2 (DOWNING, YAKUBU) MADEJSKI STADIUM 23,802 Team: Marcus Hahnemann, Graeme Murty, Nicky Shorey, Ivar Ingimarsson, Ibrahima Sonko, Steve Sidwell, James Harper, Bobby Convey (Stephen Hunt), Seol Ki-Hyeon (Brynjar Gunnarsson), Kevin Doyle, Dave Kitson (Leroy Lita), Manager: Steve Coppell 

Not many clubs have enjoyed such an exciting and rewarding debut as Reading did against Middlesbrough in August 2006. They had romped to the Championship title the previous season, winning at a canter with a record 106 points and scoring 99 goals in the process, but had a rude awakening in the opening 20 minutes in the Premier League after Stewart Downing and Yakubu put the away side in control at the Madejski. Approaching half-time Reading were still two goals behind but then scored twice in the space of a couple of minutes, through Dave Kitson and Steve Sidwell, to go in level at the break. Within ten minutes of the restart Kitson’s replacement Leroy Lita scored their third as they ended up 3-2 winners. The Royals continued the momentum from this barnstorming opening match, finishing a highly creditable eighth. 

14TH AUGUST, 2010 WIGAN 0 BLACKPOOL 4 (TAYLOR-FLETCHER, HAREWOOD 2, BAPTISTE) DW STADIUM 16,152 

Team: Matty Gilks, Alex Baptiste, Stephen Crainey, Charlie Adam, Ian Evatt, Craig Cathcart, Gary Taylor-Fletcher (Jason Euell), Brett Ormerod (Ludovic Sylvestre), Marlon Harewood (Chris Basham), Elliot Grandin, David Vaughan, Manager: Ian Holloway 

Blackpool’s only Premier League season was encapsulated in their first two games. Their opening fixture was a 4-0 win away to Wigan Athletic, which still stands as the largest Premier League debut victory of any club. The optimism generated by that amazing game was quickly swept away by their next match when they were ruthlessly dispatched 6-0 by Arsenal. Within their first two matches the Tangerines managed to secure their biggest Premier League win and then followed it up immediately with their record loss. Their third match was a 2-2 draw at Fulham, which meant that there had been 14 goals in their first three games and this set the pace for a giddy ride. Their most notable scalp was doing their only double over Liverpool, both by 2-1 with the victory at Anfield on 3rd October, 2010 the high point. The Tangerines just failed to avoid relegation, going down in a typical blaze of glory, losing 4-2 to the champions at Old Trafford on the last day of the season, having been 2-1 up after an hour. 

12TH AUGUST, 2017 CRYSTAL PALACE 0 HUDDERSFIELD TOWN 3 (WARD OG, MOUNIE 2) SELHURST PARK 25,448 

Team: Jonas Lossl, Tommy Smith (Danny Williams), Chris Lowe, Zanka, Christopher Schindler, Philip Billing, Elias Kachunga, Aaron Mooy, Tom Ince, Kasey Palmer (Colin Quaner), Steve Mounie (Rajiv van La Parra), Manager: David Wagner 

A little like Blackpool in 2010/11, Huddersfield announced their arrival in the Premier League with a bang thanks to a comfortable 3-0 victory away at Selhurst Park on the opening day of the 2017/18 season. But unlike Blackpool, The Terriers, under David Wagner, proved to be of sterner stuff and against all the odds they survived their debut campaign, sealing safety with a memorable draw at Stamford Bridge in their penultimate match. They finished in 16th place, four points above the highest placed relegated club, Swansea.  

As Brentford become the 50th club to participate in the Premier League will they make it a dozen clubs to win their first match? 

PS Look out for the fully revised and updated edition of “Premier League Nuggets”, which will be available in September.

Published by richardfoster60

Author, broadcaster, historian, journalist. A regular contributor to the Guardian, Sky Sports and talkSPORT, my latest book is highly acclaimed Premier League Nuggets - "brilliantly written" - Darren Fletcher, "I love Premier League Nuggets" - Guy Mowbray, "the book is a labour of love" - Peter Drury.

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