Kevin Henning celebrates seven poachers who introduced themselves on the opening day of the season with a bang.
6th August 1994
Sheffield Wednesday 3-4 Tottenham Hotspur
In the summer of 1994, Jurgen Klinsmann arrived in North London with the eyes of a suspicious nation focused on him. “A German footballer known for diving? Not in my backyard!” cried the xenophobes. Such was the furore, one Guardian reporter saw fit to pen an article with the headlines “Reasons Why I Hate Jurgen Klinsmann”.
Klinsmann blew his doubters away on a glorious opening day debut in Sheffield where he scored a stunning diving header in a seven goal thriller that Spurs edged 4-3. Aware of the fuss caused by Klinsmann’s arrival, Teddy Sheringham had persuaded the German to celebrate a debut goal by mocking the naysayers. Klinsmann duly obliged and his swandive across the Hillsborough pitch is one of the most iconic moments in Premier League history.
Such was the impact of Jurgen Klinsmann, the same Guardian reporter wrote a follow up article a few months later but changed the title to “Reasons Why I Love Jurgen Klinsmann”. Spurs’ early season fantasy football flattered to decieve though and defensive frailties eventually cost Ossie Ardiles his job.
15th August 2011
Manchester City 4-0 Swansea City
Brought in from Atletico Madrid for a club record fee, Kun Aguero was seen as the replacement for wantaway City striker Carlos Tevez. Citizens fans nervously anticipated the arrival of Diego Maradona’s son-in-law as the Premier League season got underway but were disappointed when Aguero was named as a substitute against newly promoted Swansea City.
They say the best things come to those who wait though and with City an Edin Dzeko goal to the good, Kun was summoned to the pitchside to make his bow. The cameo that followed blew City supporters away. Aguero opened his account with a simple side foot finish before lobbing the ball firstly over Swans keeper Michel Vorm and then hooking a ball which had seemed certain to go out for a goal kick back over his own head into the path of David Silva who smashed home City’s third. Their fourth arrived when Aguero launched a shot from thirty yards out into the corner of the stunned Dutchman’s net. A new Premier League star was born as City fans made their way into the balmy August night. Amazingly, the end of Sergio Aguero’s debut season was even more spectacular than its beginning.
15th August 1992
Crystal Palace 3-3 Blackburn Rovers
The hottest property in football as the dawn of the new English Premier League arrived, Alan Shearer could have chosen almost any European team to sign for. Manchester United, Barcelona, Arsenal and AC Milan were all linked with the Southampton hitman but the sheetmetal worker’s son from Newcastle stunned them all by signing for Lancashire upstarts Blackburn Rovers.
If the Geordie’s persona is a little dull, his Rovers debut was far from it. Explosive in fact. Two long range rockets in this six goal thriller set a standard that Shearer rarely dipped below during his career. Kenny Dalglish had found his foundation stone and in time, built a championship winning team upon it.
27th August 1988
Everton 4-0 Newcastle United
A born and bred Hammer, Tony Cottee was the subject of a British transfer record when he left the Boleyn Ground to join the Millionaire’s Club at Goodison Park.
Signed for £2.2 million, the pressure was on the new Everton hitman and didn’t disappoint manager Colin Harvey, rattling in a debut hat-trick against Newcastle United. The Toffees failed to build upon their blistering start and eventually finished 8th in the league and lost twice at Wembley, firstly 4-3 to Nottingham Forest in the Full Members Cup Final before another 3-2 defeat to neighbours Liverpool in an emotionally charged FA Cup Final in the immediate aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.
Cottee remained at Everton for 6 seasons in all and average just short of a one in two strike rate before returning to boyhood heroes West Ham United.
25th August 1990
Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Manchester City
In the immediate aftermath of the Italia ’90 World Cup, the nation was riding a tidal wave of excitement caused by the beautiful game’s reboot. Paul Gascoigne was the Clown Prince and Gary Lineker had been brought back from Barcelona to give Tottenham Hotspur a dream partnership as a new era for English football began.
At a sun baked White Hart Lane, Manchester City were the opening day sacrificial lambs and Lineker soon obliged. A miss placed header from young City captain Paul Lake was pounced on by the England hitman and Spurs led 1-0. City were no pushovers though and after Niall Quinn’s equaliser, should have led when the big Irishman had a second goal harshly ruled out for a non-existent foul.
Gazza and Lineker then took over and after Lineker’s defence splitting throughball was finished by the daft as a brush Geordie, the favour was returned for Lineker to open his Tottenham account with a brace.
18th August 2012
Queens Park Rangers 0-5 Swansea City
After an impressive opening season in the Premier League for the Welsh club, the departure of manager Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool was seen as a huge blow. When Rodgers was replaced with Michael Laudrup, alarm bells were ringing. Swansea were the tip of many “experts” to be relegated.
Laudrup knew the system his side were to play though and brought in a few additions to his squad. Spanish forward Miguel Pérez Cuesta was signed from Rayo Vallecano for a modest £2 million to a low fanfare. Also known as Michu, his arrival in English football blew away the expectations of every Swans fan.
Two goals and an assist in an opening day 5-0 rout at QPR was the beginning of an historic season for the club and their bargain of the season signing.
17th August 1996
Middlesbrough 3-3 Liverpool
The White Feather floated into Teeside as a European Champion after tasting glory in the Champions League Final in his last game for Juventus. Fabrizio Ravanelli joined Juninho at the Riverside Stadium in what would prove to be a bizarre season for the club. They would go on to be beaten in both domestic cup finals as well as suffering relegation.
None of that could have been predicted when, on the opening day, Liverpool came to the North East. The Scousers took the lead three times but Ravanelli wasn’t going to have his day ruined and hit back himself each time to complete a dream debut hat-trick.