Chelsea fans were hoping for big things from new signing Demba Ba, and the centre forward certainly lived up to his billing as one of the league's top strikers on Saturday, his debut leading the Blues out of a tricky situation and towards a 5-1 win against Southampton. That got me to wondering about where he stacks up in the grand history of Chelsea debutants.
Some crowdsourcing later, here's what we came up with.
12. Deco vs. Portsmouth (2008)
It's easy to forget just how well Chelsea started under a certain Luis Felipe Scolari. Having missed out on Champions League glory by the width of a goalpost just months early, the Blues began the 2008/09 campain with a point to prove, and until the rest of the league figured out how to defend against them they were playing some of the prettiest football you could possibly hope to watch.
They began the year with a 4-0 thumping of Portsmouth at Stamford Bridge, a game which marked Deco's Chelsea debut. Bought from Barcelona for £8 million, Deco was clearly on the downslope of his superb career. But that didn't mean he wasn't good enough to make an immediate impact, and with the score at 3-0, the Portguese wizard capped off a wonderful performance with this:
Submitted by @Jack8Sparrow
11. Petr Cech vs. Manchester United (2004)
It's funny to me that Petr Cech's first appearance in a Chelsea kit was by accident (it's also weird to remember that he didn't always have to wear his headgear). Acquired from Rennes for 7 million, he was supposed to be Carlo Cudicini's understudy. But an elbow injury in preseason for Chelsea's supposed number one left Cech in the starting lineup... and, well, we know the rest of the story, right?
It was a relatively quiet day for him against a Manchester United side that had to drop Roy Keane into the centre of defence -- not once is he mentioned in the BBC's match report of the game -- but this makes the list because a) it's a clean sheet against Manchester United, b) it marks the start of the Jose Mourinho era and c) it was Didier Drogba's debut as well. And Richardo Carvalho's. And Paulo Ferreira's. Consider this one an awesome debut medley.
Submitted by @SchmidtXC
10. Jimmy Greaves vs. Tottenham Hotspur (1957)
In August 1957, nobody knew what what the future held for a young striker named Jimmy Greaves. But they'd all have a pretty good idea. Greaves was clearly too good for the youth team -- his goal haul in the 1956/57 season was frankly embarrassing -- and he obviously had the talent to go a long, long way.
But the first step was making his Chelsea debut, and in the 24th he did so, finding the scoresheet in a 1-1 draw. He'd leave Chelsea four years and 132 goals later, for AC Milan. He scored in that debut too. And his Spurs one. And his West Ham one.
It'd probably be more of a surprise if he didn't score in one of those debuts, to be honest. He was pretty good at scoring.
9. Eden Hazard at Wigan Athletic (2012)
The Eden Hazard transfer saga was something to behold. Belgian's biggest talent had announced his intention to depart Lille in the winter, and every big team in the Premier League was on high alert, falling all over themselves to try to sign the 21-year-old before he finally announced that he was 'joining the European Champions'. Which was us.
After essentially trolling both Manchester United and Manchester City by choosing to sign with Chelsea (for £32 million, no less), there was plenty of pressure under Hazard to make an immediate impact in the Premier League. It took him all of two minutes:
Oh, and then he won a penalty five minutes later (off fellow debutant Ivan Ramis, whom he'd absolutely abused on the turn for the assist to Ivanovic) to give the Blues a 2-0 lead they'd never relinquish. Not a bad first seven minutes, you might say.
Submitted by @JoeTweeds
8. Juan Sebastian Veron at Liverpool (2003)
It's not difficult to imagine Veron's career at Stamford Bridge taking a very different trajectory. Although he was hugely disappointing at Old Trafford, his £15 million transfer to Chelsea looked like it would pay off handsomely after a superb debut match at Liverpool.
Veron pulled all the strings in midfield, inspiring Chelsea to a 2-1 win and scoring the first goal of the Roman Abramovich era with a well-taken strike past Jerzy Dudek:
It was an astonishing performance in midfield, and promised great things to come from the Argentinian. Injuries, alas, robbed him of any chance to make a real impression with the club, and he ended up being shipped out with Jose Mourinho's arrival at the Bridge.
Submitted by @rfjolnisson
7. Peter Osgood vs. Workington AFC (1964)
17-year-old Peter Osgood had already impressed in the reserves before making his first-team debut in a replay of the Blues' League Cup tie against Workington AFC. According to theChels.info, 7,936 were in attendance at Stamford Bridge for the first match of Osgood's legendary career, and he didn't disappoint, striking in the 82nd and 84th minute to give the Blues a 2-0 win.
He also scored on his second debut with Chelsea, returning to the club in 1978 after four years to net in the 7-2 loss against Middlesbrough.
Submitted by @D_Peezy
6. Demba Ba at Southampton (2013)
With Didier Drogba moving to China in the summer and Romelu Lukaku on loan at West Bromwich Albion, the squad has been crying out for a true centre forward that the attack can be anchored around. One finally turned up five months into the season when Demba Ba arrived on a 7 million transfer from Newcastle United.
He'd already made a big impression in the Premier League, having scored hatfuls with the Magpies, but with Chelsea's habit of making poor signings at the striker position, there was always some worry he'd struggle in his first game. Not to worry.
A poacher's finish saw the Senegalese erase Jay Rodriguez's early goal, but better was to come from Ba. With the score 3-1 in Chelsea's favour, he appeared with a classic piece of centre forward play, first holding up the ball beautifully and then making a great run to the near post for Hazard to find with a quick pass. The finish was almost trivial after that.
Ba's movement was superb throughout the match, and that enabled everyone around him more space in which to operate. This is what Chelsea look like with a real striker leading the line. Long may it continue.
Oh, and he nearly got a hattrick. Not bad.
5. George Weah vs. Tottenham Hotspur (2000)
George Weah had arrived in London literally hours before a tense London derby against Spurs, but that didn't stop the Liberian loanee from making an immediate impact at Stamford Bridge. Already known as one of the best African footballers every to live -- he remains the only African player ever to win FIFA's World Player of the Year award -- a 33-year-old Weah had nothing to prove when he arrived at Chelsea from AC Milan.
That didn't stop him from endearing himself to the home faithful. Weah began the match on the bench before coming on for Tore Andre Flo an hour in. Twenty-seven minutes later, he rose above the defence to power home a Dennis Wise cross for a 1-0 home win. Not a bad way to mark your first appearance, that.
Submitted by @DJDannyF
4. Bobby Tambling vs. West Ham (1959)
Another Chelsea legend making a debut as a 17-year-old, this time against West Ham United. It was a tight game, but at 2-2 Bobby Tambling popped up to secure a vital winner. He'd go on to score another 201 goals for the club, setting an all-time scoring record that Frank Lampard (193) is still chasing.
Tambling wasn't the only youngster making his debut in this one either -- fellow striker Barry Bridges, who enjoyed a fairly prolific career himself, made his first start and netted the Blues' second goal. Some guy named Jimmy Greaves scored the other one. We talked about him a little bit earlier.
Submitted by @ATintOfBlue
3. Seamus O'Connell vs. Manchester United (1954)
The 50s were a good decade for debuts. Greaves, Tambling and Bridges all found the net during their first appearances for Chelsea, but their strikes were rather thoroughly upstaged in rather unlikely fashion by a man named Seamus O'Connell.
Here's how he's described by Will Buckley in the Observer:
The son of a wealthy Cumbrian farmer, he could not play often because he was needed at farmers' market on Thursdays. He would travel down by train carrying his boots by the laces.
So talented was he that Sunderland dropped local hero Raich Carter to accommodate him in their team before he signed for Chelsea. Yet, after 17 appearances for Chelsea, O'Connell decided to return to cattle farming and played out his career with Crook Town, a top amateur club.
O'Connell became the second (and most recent) Chelsea player to score a hattrick on his debut, and he gets extra special brownie points by doing so against Manchester United. But in keeping with his odd professional career, the Blues lost anyway.
Submitted by @RickGlanvill
2. Mario Stanic vs. West Ham (2000)
Yeah, Mario Stanic would have made the list for this ridiculous effort alone:
Then he scored again. The Blues would ultimately win 4-2.
Another Chelsea man made his debut during this match. Do you remember who?
Submitted by @Aonghus2011
1. George Hilsdon vs. Glossop North End (1906)
A 20-year-old George Hilsdon joined Chelsea FC in summer of 1906 after a free transfer from West Ham United. Wikipedia claims that he was paid £4 per week -- a little over 200 a year -- in wages, a gamble that paid off handsomely for the Blues. Only six players have ever scored five goals in a match for Chelsea, but Hildson managed it on his debut. His opponents? Glossop North End. Whatever they are.
Incredible, a five-goal haul wasn't the high point in the "Gatling-Gun"'s career. He'd set a Chelsea record with six in one game against Worksop Town in the next season. Apparently he hated teams whose names ended in 'sop'.
Submitted by @RickGlanvill
Oversight alert! Kerry Dixon vs. Derby County (1983)
Kerry Dixon, now level with Frank Lampard on the all-time scorer list, gets his Chelsea career started with a bang against Derby County, scoring a brace in a 5-0 romp at Stamford Bridge. Plenty of other new signings chipped in too, with Nigel Spackman also grabbing a debut goal.
Submitted by Piers Thompson