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Memorable sporting debuts

Alex Perry
July 11, 2013
© Getty Images
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It is not often we do not celebrate an Australian fall of wicket - particularly during the Ashes. But we found ourselves here at ESPN Towers willing Ashton Agar to get a century in his very first match wearing the baggy green.

Despite falling short at 98, the 19-year-old, pictured above, still smashed records galore and it got us thinking about the most memorable debuts in sporting history. Here are ten of our favourites…

Alan Shearer

Shearer was promoted to the Southampton first team after two years in the youth ranks. He scored three as the Saints beat Arsenal 4-2, in doing so becoming the youngest player - at 17 years and 240 days old - to score a top-flight hat-trick, beating a 30-year record held by Jimmy Greaves.

Jimmy Greaves

Speaking of ol' Greavesie, the England legend holds the frankly ridiculous record of scoring on his debut for every team he turned out for until his retirement in 1971: Chelsea, AC Milan, Tottenham, West Ham and England. Greaves is also still to this day Spur's record all-time scorer with 266 goals in 379 matches, as well as an also unbeaten six golden boots in the top division.

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney made himself an instant Old Trafford idol with a hat-trick © Getty Images
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Continuing the record-breaking England striker theme, Rooney made his United (and Champions League) debut against Fenerbahce in a 6-2 victory at Old Trafford having made a £25m switch from Everton. Rooney scored three and set up a goal - as well as giving away the corner from which the Turkish side scored their second. (Don't ask us how we remember that…) The match also saw the Englishman become the youngest player to score a hat-trick in Europe's premier competition, aged 18 years and 335 days.

Jonathan Woodgate

Of course, debuts do not have to go well to be memorable. Having joined the Spanish giants from Newcastle United for £13m, Woodgate's injury woes meant it was more than a year before he made his first appearance for Madrid. And boy was it worth it, as the Teesider scored an own goal before being sent off for a second bookable offence. Woodgate made just nine appearance in three years at the Bernabeu, and was later voted the worst signing of the 21st century by leading Spanish tabloid Marca.

Ali Dia

A story that will forever remain in football folklore, Dia spent many years in lower leagues across Europe before being snapped up by then Southampton manager Graeme Souness.

The Scot had received a phone call from Dia's agent pretending to be former World Player of the Year George Weah. "Weah" told Souness Dia was his cousin and that he played for Paris St Germain, as well as representing his country on numerous occasions. Why these stats were not checked only Souness knows, but Dia was given a one month trial and came on as a 32nd minute substitute for Saints legend Matt Le Tissier. He was taken off 20 minutes later.

Le Tissier later described the performance as "embarrassing to watch" and "like Bambi on ice", while the incident perhaps best sums up Souness's managerial career…

Frances Ouimet, Ben Curtis and Keegan Bradley

Francis Ouimet shocked the sporting world when he beat Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at the 1913 US Open © AP
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Americans Ouimet, Curtis and Bradley are the only three golfers in the sport's history to win on their major championship debuts.

Ouimet, known as the "father of amateur golf", received a special invitation from then president Robert Watson to play in the 1913 US Open. The tournament had been delayed until September from its usual June slot to allow for the participation of British pair Harry Vardon and Ted Ray - at the time considered the two best golfers on the planet. And guess who Ouimet went on to beat in a three-man play-off? Ouimet's story is immortalised in the Disney film The Greatest Game Ever Played.

You have to fast-forward to 2003 for the next time this feat was achieved, with Curtis taking the Open Championship at Royal St George's in Kent during his rookie season. The victory saw Curtis leap from 396th in the world rankings to 35th - the biggest jump of any player since the rankings were introduced in 1986.

The third and final man to win on his major championship debut was Bradley, who triumphed at the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club in Georgia. A triple-bogey at the 15th hole on the final day saw Bradley fall a massive five shots behind leader Jason Dufner. But birdies at 16 and 17 for Bradley coupled with three straight bogeys for Dufner saw the pair head to a play-off, where Bradley was victorious. It was also the first major victory for the soon-to-be-outlawed long putter.

Andrew Strauss

When Michael Vaughan picked up a knee injury in the nets, it allowed Strauss to make his Test debut for England against New Zealand at Lord's in 2004. The Middlesex man top-scored with 112, becoming the 15th man to score a century on his debut - and the first since Graham Thorpe 11 years before. But it was a performance which made huge inroads on the shape of the England batting order, with then captain Nasser Hussain stepping aside and allowing Vaughan to move down the order Strauss to keep his spot opening with Marcus Trescothick. And we all know what happened the following year in that infamous Ashes series.

Terry Griffiths

Renowned for slow play, Griffiths' debut at the 1979 World Snooker Championship was memorable for all sorts of reasons. Having knocked out the legendary Alex Higgins, the former postman, salesman, miner and bus conductor beat Eddie Charlton in a gruelling semi-final - the final session of which lasted more than five hours and finished just short of 2am. After the victory, Griffiths, in his wonderful broad Welsh accent, said: "I'm in the final now, you know." He went on to win that final against Dennis Taylor 24-16, testing the patience of even the most ardent snooker fan.

Eddy Merckx

Eddy Merckx dominated the 1969 Tour de France and went on to become one of the best cyclists in history © Getty Images
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The dashingly handsome Belgian cyclist they called 'The Cannibal' won the Tour de France on his debut in 1969 by a whopping 18 minutes, as well as taking the yellow jersey (overall leader), the green jersey (points leader) and the polka dot jersey (King of the Mountains). Even more impressive considering a doctor almost prevented Merckx from competing after finding abnormalities with his heart rhythm. Merckx went on to win the Tour de France four more times in his sparkling career.

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton made a decent start to his Formula One career in 2007, finishing third in his first ever Grand Prix in Melbourne. Come the final race in Brazil, the Englishman was seven points clear at the top of the standings and on the verge of becoming the first driver to become world champion in his debut season. Alas, he finished seventh in Sao Paulo and Kimi Raikkonen nipped in to take the title by a single point. The swine.

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