THERE is a select group of Reds players past and present that have managed to score on their first appearance for the club. Titi Camara is one of the more memorable of recent times and as it’s his birthday today, we thought we’d celebrate by looking at 12 times Liverpool players scored on their debut.
Ray Kennedy: 31.8.74 – 3-0 vs Chelsea – 1st Division, Stamford Bridge
TALK about bad timing.
You’ve had the best possible start to your football career but have had a bad year at your club and are anxious to get back on track. One day, you get a call from the best club in the country from their greatest ever manager and he wants to bring you into the fold. Within days you’re on your way to a press conference where you’ll be unveiled before a watchful and expectant fan base.
An hour before your meeting with the press, your new chairman takes your seat and tells the world that that legendary manager is off. You haven’t even signed the contract and you’ve been bowled a googly by fate.
So God knows what was going through Ray Kennedy’s mind as he waited to go onto the pitch before his Liverpool debut at Stamford Bridge on the last day of August 1974. Shankly had gone and, though buoyed that his replacement was, like him, a Geordie, there was still plenty of uncertainty in his life.
Ray himself had the answer.
It took him just 22 minutes to score his first for the Reds, slotting past Chelsea ‘keeper John Phillips in a 3-0 win. He followed that up with another on his Anfield debut and again three days later in a League Cup win over Brentford. Three goals in his first three games — a club record, only equalled by Daniel Sturridge nearly 30 years later.
A promising start, yes, but the goals soon dried up and he scored for the final time that season in December.
Eighteen months later, unable to dislodge John Toshack in the forward line, his manager noticed his excellent passing and creative play and decided to play him a bit further back. It worked a treat as Ray became one of Europe’s best left-sided midfielders.
That debut goal on a bog of a pitch was the first of 51 for the Reds and the initial step to accruing five league championships and three European Cups in a seven-year spell.
Were it not for John Barnes he would still be considered Liverpool’s best ever left midfielder.
John Wark: 31.3.84 – 2-0 vs Watford – 1st Division, Vicarage Road
JOHN Wark is a funny one. The way he’s remembered is full of misconceptions, not least by me.
If I’m honest, I wouldn’t have him in my top 50 Liverpool players. In fact, despite his autobiography being titled Wark On, the Scot is wholly more synonymous with Ipswich Town.
But then you look back and see the record books log 42 goals in 108 games for the Reds – exclusively from midfield – a record in keeping with some of the greats.
Wark, who carried a moustache that made him an obvious Liverpool target, enjoyed remarkable success at Portman Road. Little wonder then that the Reds, preparing for the departure of Graeme Souness, took the plunge.
Wark, given his penalty-box record, predictably scored on his Liverpool debut at Watford, getting the crucial opener in a 2-0 win at the end of March 1984.
The fallacy here was that Wark’s immediate impact drove Liverpool on to the title. Yes, his signing, before the days of transfer windows, was a tried and trusted example of a fresh face boosting a tiring squad, but Wark scored only once more on the run-in (at Leicester) and in reality a third consecutive league win was already in the bag.
An equaliser off the bench against United at Anfield during the 1985/6 season was the highlight, as Wark’s Anfield star faded as readily as it had briefly beamed. Sliding in to net a rebound from close range, commentator Barry Davies on Match Of The Day Live yelled that Wark was again the “Johnny on the spot”.
The fans appreciated him, but also recognised his limitations. And to this day, when I hear his name I think of the time he copped for a frozen ball fired into his unmentionables and the Kop mockingly sang “Johnny Wark, Johnny Wark” in the screechiest falsetto, while the poor lad checked if his manhood was still intact. Such indignity would never have been afforded to Kenny, Souey or Rushie.
John eventually returned to Ipswich in 1988, where perhaps he re-found his more spiritual home, albeit this time with very sore testicles.
David Speedie: 3.2.91 – 1-1 vs Manchester United – 1st Division, Old Trafford
THERE’S nothing like a big money star signing to get the blood pumping. And when Kenny Dalglish signed David Speedie it was nothing like a big money star signing.
Speedie was a shock signing when he arrived from Coventry City for £675,000 in January 1991. He was nearly 31 and the move left many a Red scratching their heads.
The Scot only lasted six months – he wasn’t to Graeme Souness’s tastes by all accounts – but there have been much bigger signings that didn’t manage the moments Speedie did in a Liverpool shirt.
Always running, forever trying, what Speedie was lacking in skill he tried to make up with endeavour. And that was in evidence on his debut – the stereotypical baptism of fire as Liverpool played Manchester United at Old Trafford.
The mangled-potato face of Steve Bruce had celebrated a goal and an early lead for the Mancs after Glenn Hysen’s handball handed him the opportunity to score from the spot.
But after some trademark John Barnes magic and a cross to the far post, there was the unfancied Speedie popping up to volley in an equaliser.
Speedie followed up making a misery out of the Mancs with a double against Everton at Anfield. What’s not to love?
Nigel Clough: 14.8.93 – 2-0 vs Sheffield Wednesday – Premier League, Anfield
IF I think back to what it felt like hearing the news of a new Liverpool signing over my past four decades of watching the Reds, I think few have got the juices flowing quite like the announcement of Nigel Clough’s transfer.
I’d grown up with the number seven being my everything. I didn’t really see Kevin Keegan, but I knew his leaving was a big deal. His successor Kenny Dalglish redefined the position and the number. When there was no more Kenny suddenly there was Peter Beardsley. We had these lads on a conveyor belt.
Then, inexplicably, in 1991, (then manager) Graeme Souness sold Beardsley to Everton. We had to endure an entire season watching a Liverpool team devoid of guile. Then in comes young Nige Clough in the summer of ‘92. He’d always scored goals and been the best player in decent Nottingham Forest sides for his dad (Brian Clough). He was going to be the new Kenny. It was nailed on.
And for one glorious sunny Merseyside afternoon in August of 1992 it all seemed so perfect. The planets, the moon, and the stars seemed to be realigning for Liverpool FC. Our hero elect, the baby-faced assassin with a feather-light touch, brought Anfield to its feet. Useless Sheff Wednesday were swept away. We won 3-1. Nigel Clough scored twice. On his debut. Everything seemed possible.
It wasn’t just that he marked his territory so soon, it was the style in which he did it. That first goal. He lets the pass run across his body, just inside the right-hand side of the box, he looks up, he looks down, and then he puts his right foot through it. Strikes the top and the outside edge of the ball. Like he’s potting the black. A legend was born.
Until the next game when we realised Nige was actually a bit shit, and never really played well for us again. Still, we had that one afternoon.
Robbie Fowler: 22.9.93 – 3-1 vs Fulham – League Cup 2nd Round 1st Leg, Craven Cottage
NOTHING beats a Roy of The Rovers-style footie story and Robbie Fowler was always one waiting to happen.
Plucked from the clutches of his boyhood heroes Everton at a tender age, Fowler was a household name on Merseyside long before he was given his chance to shine in Liverpool’s first team.
With all kinds of youth goal records ripped to shreds by his poaching prowess, it seemed everyone had a Fowler story: someone had played against him, or knew someone who had. All the tales ended the same – with Fowler scoring a worldie.
There was a clamour locally for Fowler’s full debut, yet Liverpool – and Graeme Souness in particular – resisted over and over again.
The Toxteth goalscorer was twice named on the bench by Souness — first when Liverpool crashed out of the FA Cup to Bolton in January 1993, and again four months later against Spurs in the Reds’ last league game of the season. Liverpool won that one 6-2. Fowler didn’t get on in either game.
His chance finally came in September 1993, a full eight months after he was first judged good enough to take a seat on the bench (managers could only name two substitutes back then).
After a shocking run of defeats to Coventry, Blackburn and Everton, Fowler, aged 18, was picked to start against Fulham in a League Cup match away at Craven Cottage.
He immediately lived up to the hype, having a hand in two goals before expertly half-volleying a third from Don Hutchinson’s cross as Liverpool won 3-1.
Starts against Arsenal and Chelsea followed, before Fowler became known the nation over after famously scoring all five – three with his left, one with his head and one with his right – versus Fulham in the second leg of the League Cup tie.
He celebrated with special fried rice and barbecue sauce washed down with Irn Bru. Bet Roy of the Rovers never had that for his tea.
Stan Collymore: 19.8.95 – 1-0 vs Sheffield Wednesday – Premier League, Anfield
LIVERPOOL broke the British transfer record when they paid £8.5million for Stan Collymore in July 1995.
The Nottingham Forest striker was hot property at the time with Everton and Newcastle also linked with a move for the forward.
Collymore even met with the Blues to discuss a move but – quite correctly – chose Liverpool over Joe Royle’s side.
After helping Forest secure promotion to the top-flight, Collymore had gone on to score 22 goals in 37 Premier League appearances for the Nottingham side and was tipped for a move to Manchester United before they instead signed Andy Cole.
Collymore’s talent was never in doubt – now or then. And yet there were question marks around his attitude that littered his career pre-Liverpool and would re-emerge later in his time at Anfield.
His debut was a different story though, because on August 19, 1995, nobody was asking questions as a moment of brilliance from Collymore sent The Kop wild and won Liverpool three points on the opening day of the season.
David Pleat’s Sheffield Wednesday had arrived all set on securing at least a draw with a five-man defence making for a drab spectacle as Liverpool were limited to pot-shots from distance.
With just over an hour on the clock, a benched Robbie Fowler must have been wondering when his chance would come as frustrations started to spill from the stands.
Step up Stan Collymore. Picking up the ball in what looked a fairly safe area of the pitch from a Wednesday perspective, Collymore showed strength and skill to manoeuvre himself into position before whipping a wicked curled shot into the corner past Kevin Pressman, who was no mug between the sticks.
It proved to be the winner. As starts go, you couldn’t ask for better but Collymore was to last less than two years at Anfield. He scored 35 goals in 81 appearances – a career in Red unfulfilled.
Michael Owen: 6.5.97 – 1-2 vs Wimbledon – Premier League, Selhurst Park
IT’S easy to forget — admittedly, I do quite a lot — but Michael Owen was actually a genuinely fantastic player. I’m a bit too young to remember his formative years clearly, but I know that at the time he was one of the most exciting players at the club and was genuinely world class on his day.
I’ve mentioned it on these pages previously, but he was the first player I got on the back of my shirt — the Reebok green 1999/0 away kit. He was really, really good in my eyes.
And it began for him back in May 1997, in a 2-1 loss to Wimbledon. At 2-0 down a 17-year-old Owen came off the bench and quickly set about trying to give Liverpool a way back into the game. It didn’t take him long.
After 16 minutes of being on the field, Stig Inge Bjornebye played a through ball which Owen latched onto using his pace to get by the defender and in one swift motion — a move not dissimilar to something you’d expect from a world class striker in his pomp — opened up his body and slotted it past the Wimbledon ‘keeper.
That goal saw him rewarded with a start in the following game away at Sheffield Wednesday. The rest, as they say, is history — as he went on to score 158 goals in 297 games before trading Merseyside for Madrid. A spell with the Mancs made him public enemy number one and that is the memory most will retain.
Titi Camara: 7.8.99 – 2-1 vs Sheffield Wednesday – Premier League, Hillsborough
GERARD Houllier’s first summer in sole charge at Anfield saw a raft of new signings, six of which would feature in the Reds’ opening game of the season away to Sheffield Wednesday, but there was one who made a telling contribution for Liverpool that day.
Robbie Fowler had put the home side ahead after three-quarters of an hour but they weren’t out of sight. Step forward Titi Camara.
The Guinean made himself an instant hit with the fans, as Fowler forced the Wednesday ‘keeper to parry his shot from distance the ball fell back to Camara who made no mistake with the finish. A late consolation from Benito Carbone made that goal the winner.
Titi was a player who many still believe to this day was underrated. He only went on to make 37 appearances for the Reds scoring 10 goals, with some eye-catching displays in between.
After just one season on Merseyside, the striker fell out of favour with his manager and was out the exit door by December 2000, after failing to make a single appearance during the early stages of the 2000/1 season.
From there he made an unsuccessful move to West Ham, where he somehow spent two-and-a-half years despite making only a handful of appearances and not scoring. But he’s still loved by Liverpool fans, no less for his (eh hmm) Twitter account.
When I left Liverpool not many people thought I could have been replaced. Liverpool will survive without Suarez
— Titi Camara (@TitiCamara22) July 7, 2014
Abel Xavier: 9.2.02 – 6-0 vs Ipswich Town – Premier League, Portman Road
ABEL Xavier hadn’t scored in 43 league games for Everton. He managed to score after 16 minutes for Liverpool. Glorious this simple fact.
It’s a scruffy goal — a corner that comes out to Gerrard, he goes to the byline, looks to knock it back across the box, it deflects off an Ipswich Town player, comes back to Xavier who strikes it at goal, flicks off another Ipswich player but then hits the back of the net. Nil-one to Liverpool against the other form team in the country.
It’s a significant goal — Liverpool go on and beat Ipswich 0-6 that day and it puts them top of the pops, though Arsenal are already looking ominous now you look back. Xavier was signed back when you could get yourself into a bit of a hole with suspensions and injuries when approaching a run-in and buy a lad who could conceivably just help you out.
Later in the season he would score against Bayer Leverkusen in the quarter-final of the Champions League and only play 21 games for Liverpool in total. I love these sorts of signings, quietly. Don’t happen any more and possibly shouldn’t have happened then, but I love the idea that you are mooching around at a middling club and then Liverpool swoop in and give you a big 12 months before sending you back out into the world.
I love the idea that you score after 16 minutes for Liverpool having never done so for Everton. Debut goals too. They should be either scruffy or spectacular. Xavier, the former, a career which never happened for the Reds. Would have got a league medal though. Imagine that.
Mark Gonzalez: 9.8.06 – 2-1 vs Maccabi Haifa – Champions League 3rd Qual. 1st Leg, Anfield
MARK Gonzalez had been on the pitch for only three minutes when Xabi Alonso lofted a ball towards Peter Crouch, two Maccabi Haifi defenders challenged him in vain and it fell to Gonzalez who had come in around the back, shifting the ball onto his right foot before striking it into the roof of the net beyond the onrushing goalkeeper.
It’s an important goal; Liverpool went on to win 2-1 on the night and went through after a 1-1 draw in the away leg. Gonzalez’s goal changed the complexion of the tie. It gave Liverpool the cushion they needed in what was a tricky early qualifier that they were expected to win.
Gonzalez’s Liverpool career is a strange thing. He later scored an opening goal on the hour mark against Spurs — Liverpool went on to win 3-0. He would start the game against Arsenal later in the season at Anfield when Liverpool won 4-1, one of the best league performances of Rafa Benitez’s time at Liverpool.
Yet he could never nail down a place in what was a far too pedestrian Liverpool side. His pace should have been a massive asset but he would rarely impact upon games, instead flattering to deceive. There was the notion of threat without actual threat.
It’s 10 years ago since Gonzalez signed for the Reds and he strikes me as one of those players who now may find himself a different position or may have suited a different boss or a different time. He may well be a lad who suits the Brendan Rodgers/Antonio Conte 3-4-3 knocking about as Victor Moses is currently showing. He may well just have never quite been good enough.
Luis Suarez: 2.2.11 – 2-0 vs Stoke City – Premier League, Anfield
A RELATIVE unknown for most. He came to Anfield with a good record for Ajax in the Eredivisie but it was the record-breaking transfer of Andy Carroll that had grabbed the headlines. Not many knew what to expect from Luis Suarez.
It was a perfect start for the Uruguayan. Having replaced Fabio Aurelio just after the hour mark, he tried to show some of the tricks in his locker off to the home crowd. A couple of flicks here and there, some coming off and some not.
But it was when he raced through on goal that we truly got to see a sign of what was to come for Suarez at Liverpool. Latching onto a through ball, he rounded Asmir Begovic leaving him stranded on the edge of his area. It seemed the ball would get away from him for a second as he attempted to hook it first time with his left foot. The ball trickled towards goal as Andy Wilkinson made a desperate attempt to slide in and clear, only to slice it off the post and over the line.
Suarez had arrived, though it wasn’t until 2012/13 when he started to light up the league. With 82 goals in 133 appearances, he boasts an incredible scoring record and he was a menace for many a Premier League defender during his years on Merseyside.
His partnership with Daniel Sturridge in 2013/14 — which produced 52 of the Reds 101 goals in the league — will live long in the memory, as well as his overall contribution to an exciting season.
Sadio Mane: 14.8.16 – 4-3 vs Arsenal – Premier League, Emirates Stadium
HE probably wasn’t the player that most Liverpool fans were hoping to sign but the key thing to remember here is that he was absolutely the player that Jürgen Klopp wanted.
And you could see flashes in pre-season of what the German had seen in Sadio Mane. We all knew he had pace, knew he was partial to a goal but what we didn’t know is that he would slot in absolutely seamlessly into a potent Liverpool front line.
Philippe Coutinho’s goal on the stroke of half-time was the catalyst and the Reds came out for the second half absolutely flying. They tore Arsenal to bits.
Lallana, then Coutinho’s second before an early goal of the season contender from the new signing. Lallana hooks the ball forward and it is weighted perfectly for Mane to leave both Nacho Monreal and Calum Chambers in the dust. Chambers tries to grab Mane but fails — he’s literally untouchable at this point — he cuts back inside, sending Monreal for the ECHO, before curling into the top corner with his weak foot.
An unbelievable goal and the start of what is increasingly looking like a special attacking unit for the Reds. Six goals in 10 league games. It’s easy to see now why Klopp wanted him.