James Wilson and the Most Memorable Debuts of the Premier League Era
Debuts are not an easy thing to give.
With so much at stake—including money, reputations and points in the standings—managers are often cautious when it comes to starting a player for the first time.
On Tuesday, James Wilson was handed a surprise start by Manchester United caretaker manager Ryan Giggs, and the 18-year-old rewarded his boss with a two-goal performance against Hull City.
It was a memorable first match for the youngster, and Premier League history is chock-full of similar feel-good stories involving debutantes in the English top flight.
Following are 17 of the best—both full, senior debuts that happened to occur in the Premier League and goalscoring performances from players freshly unveiled after inter-league transfers.
See how Wilson stacks up against his peers, and feel free to submit your own memory of a goalscoring debut from the Premier League or any other division in the forum below.
17. Luis Suarez (Feb. 2, 2011)
Before Luis Suarez became both reviled and respected in the Premier League—indeed, before he won both the PFW Player of the Year and FWA Player of the Year awards—he made his Liverpool debut against Stoke following a £22.8 million move from Ajax.
On Feb. 2, 2011, as a second-half substitute, the Uruguayan found the back of the net in front of the Kop as Liverpool cruised to a 2-0 win.
16. Sergio Aguero (Aug. 15, 2011)
Upon completing a £38 million move to Manchester City from Atletico Madrid in 2011, Sergio Aguero immediately set about repaying the transfer fee.
He didn’t waste any time.
Just 10 minutes after his second-half introduction against Swansea, he had opened his account for City, and later in the period, he added another and assisted David Silva’s goal.
15. Robbie Keane (Aug. 21, 1999)
Coventry set a British transfer record for a teenager when they paid £6 million for Wolves striker Robbie Keane in the summer of 1999.
But just a few weeks late,r they got their first look at their investment, who scored both goals in a 2-0 win at home to Derby.
14. Papiss Cisse (Feb. 5, 2012)
Papiss Cisse had been scoring goals for fun at Bundesliga outfit Freiburg before sealing a £9 million move to Newcastle in the winter of 2012.
The Senegal international made his Magpies debut on Feb. 5, replacing the injured Leon Best, and went on to score the winner in a 2-1 win at home to Aston Villa.
13. Tom Ince (Feb. 8, 2014)
Tom Ince is still on the books at Blackpool, but on the final day of the 2014 winter transfer period, he finalised a loan move to Crystal Palace, for whom he made his Premier League debut on Feb. 8 against West Bromwich Albion.
He found the back of the net against the Baggies, as Palace won, 3-1, at Selhurst Park.
12. Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Aug. 19, 2001)
Manchester United fans had been given a preview of Ruud van Nistelrooy’s goalscoring instincts in the 2001 Charity Shield match against Liverpool, so they were expecting a performance when the Dutchman made his Premier League debut the following week against Fulham.
He didn’t disappoint.
Van Nistelrooy scored twice in United's 3-2 win and went on to score 36 goals in all competitions in his first season at Old Trafford.
11. Michu (Aug. 19, 2012)
Spanish striker Michu joined Swansea in 2012 for £2 million.
But he looked like a far more expensive acquisition in his Premier League debut against Crystal Palace on Aug. 19 when he scored twice and set up another in a 5-0 win.
10. James Wilson (May 6, 2014)
Here he is—the man of the hour.
James Wilson scored 31 minutes into his Premier League debut when he sliced the ball into the back of the net after Marouane Fellaini had knocked down Adnan Januzaj’s free-kick.
Then, just after the hour mark, he completed his brace when he knocked home Fellaini’s rebound from in close.
9. Alan Smith (Nov. 14, 1998)
Leeds youngster Alan Smith made his Premier League debut in November 1998 against Liverpool at Anfield—hardly a welcoming environment for a first match in the English top flight.
But Smith lived up to the occasion in a substitute appearance, scoring in front of the Kop, as Leeds went on to win, 3-1.
8. Michael Owen (May 6, 1997)
Few things in the late 1990s got a football fan out of his seat like the sight of Michael Owen on the ball.
In Liverpool’s second-to-last match of the 1996-97 season, the then-18-year-old came on as a sub and found the back of the net in a 2-1 defeat to Wimbledon.
It was the only bright spot in a game that handed the title to Manchester United.
7. Mario Stanic (Aug. 13, 2000)
Mario Stanic was a veteran attacker with experience at Benfica and Parma when he arrived at Chelsea in 2000.
On the books at Stamford Bridge for four years, he would make only 59 Premier League appearances for the club—and none more memorable than the first.
On his debut against West Ham, the Croatia international struck an absolutely spectacular goal that was later nominated for Goal of the Season.
6. Jurgen Klinsmann (Aug. 6, 1994)
We all remember “the dive.”
Acquired by Tottenham Hotspur for £2 million from Monaco, Jurgen Klinsmann scored on his debut against Sheffield Wednesday and then slid on his stomach in celebration—a gesture that made light of his reputation for diving.
5. James Vaughan (April 10, 2005)
When James Vaughan replaced Gary Naysmith with 15 minutes remaining in Everton’s April 2005 match against Crystal Palace, he hadn't even signed a full contract at Goodison Park.
And when the 16-year-old found the back of the net to put the Toffees 4-0 up, he became the Premier League’s youngest goalscorer.
A few weeks later, he put pen to paper on a two-year contract.
4. Faustino Asprilla (Feb. 10, 1996)
Faustino Asprilla didn’t score on his Newcastle debut in February 1996.
But with the Magpies trailing, 1-0, to rivals Middlesbrough in the second half, he came off the bench, ran everyone into the ground and earned an assist in a memorable, come-from-behind victory.
3. Federico Macheda (April 7, 2009)
Federico Macheda had a lot to do with Manchester United’s title-winning season of 2008-09, even though he didn’t make his debut until April.
But with the Red Devils having come back from a two-goal deficit away to Aston Villa, the Italian was thrown onto the park and repaid the faith of manager Sir Alex Ferguson by scoring a delightfully curled goal that restored the club’s title hopes.
2. Danny Rose (April 14, 2010)
Imagine you’re a Tottenham youngster and you’re making your Premier League debut against archrivals Arsenal.
That’s the situation Danny Rose found himself in on April 14, 2010, and after just 10 minutes, he went from a nobody to a hero when he scored a thunderous goal against the Gunners.
Spurs went on to win the match, 2-1
1. Fabrizio Ravanelli (Aug. 17, 1996)
When Fabrizio Ravanelli made his Premier League debut for Middlesbrough on the first day of the 1996-97 season, he had recently come off a productive two seasons at Juventus. So hopes were high for the Italy international.
But no one could have foreseen a hat-trick performance against Liverpool in his first match in England.
An immediate cult hero at The Riverside, he went on to score 16 goals in his first season at the club, although they were relegated the following spring.