England and Wales cemented their places in next years European Championship over the last week, with all the other home nations and Ireland now looking nervously towards March’s playoffs before they can rub shoulders with the continent’s elite.
Many will be delighted that the formalities of the international break have ceased until 2020 and we can enjoy uninterrupted domestic football for several months.
As the Premier League restarts with Jose Mourinho’s return and his first game as Tottenham’s manager away to West Ham, we look at some memorable debuts between the sticks, some for all the wrong reasons.
Simon Mignolet - LIVERPOOL V Stoke - 2013/2014
Simon Mignolet, rightly or wrongly, was often a scapegoat during Liverpool’s defensive struggles before the arrivals of successor Alison and Virgil Van Dijk, but the club could have boasted back-to-back Champions League titles should the Belgian have been selected ahead of Loris Karius in the 2018 final.
Mignolet arrived at Anfield in the summer of 2013 for £8 million following a very successful spell at Sunderland and looked to be a steal as he starred in Liverpool’s opening day victory over Stoke.
Liverpool did not start their season in keeping with the rest of the campaign, scoring only one goal and looking relatively solid at the back before resembling Kevin Keegan’s ‘Entertainers’ of the mid-90’s for the remainder.
With just two minutes of the game left and Brendan Rodger’s side seemingly cruising to a solid, albeit unspectacular inaugural win of the season, Daniel Agger handled in his own area from a Stoke freekick to hand the Potters a lifeline from the spot.
Jonathan Walters stepped up but Mignolet, who was largely untested previously, dived low to produce a tremendous save and was able to block Kenwyne Jones’ follow-up to hand Liverpool an opening day victory.
Julian Speroni - CRYSTAL PALACE V Everton - 2004/05
Julian Speroni has cult hero status at Selhurst Park and spent fifteen happy years with the Eagles before leaving at the end of last season. However, Crystal Palace career didn’t start in the same vein.
Palace had just returned to the Premier League after a seven-year absence and Speroni, recently signed from Dundee, would be trusted with the goalkeeping spot for the inaugural home game of the historic campaign, previously manned by jogging bottom-yielding Gabor Kiraly.
It was all going so well for Iain Dowie’s men who took the lead through Mark Hudson but the overconfidence of their new recruit would be Palace’s undoing. Speroni attempted to dribble round the former Palace man Marcus Bent, losing out and fouling the striker in an attempt to rectify his blunder.
Thomas Gravesen would score the subsequent spot-kick and Everton would go onto win the game 3-1, with Bent rubbing salt into Speroni’s fresh wounds by adding the third to ensure that Palace’s return to the Premier League was not a happy home coming.
Ricardo - MANCHESTER UNITED v Blackburn Rovers - 2002/03
In an era where the Spanish national side boasted the goalkeeping talent of Iker Casillas and Santiago Canizares, the name of Ricardo Felipe (known simply as Ricardo) would hardly have enthused Manchester United fans when they signed him in from Valladolid in the summer of 2002.
The Spaniard was brought in as cover for Fabien Barthez and then-youngster Roy Carroll and it wasn’t until April the next year when he made his Premier League debut at home to Blackburn Rovers.
His one and only appearance in the Premier League started in tumultuous fashion. Replacing the injured Fabian Barthez at half-time, the Old Trafford faithful had barely returned from their half time pints when Ricardo took out ex-United star Andy Cole in the area.
The subsequent penalty was saved brilliantly and Ricardo had turned hero from villain within just two minutes of his league debut by tipping David Dunn’s effort round the post.
United strolled to a 3-1 victory to help them on their way to an eighth Premier League crown. Ricardo would never play in England again and was shipped off to Racing Santander the following season.
Rob Green - QPR V Swansea City - 2012/13
A year on from their 4-0 home reverse on the opening day of 2011/12 season, QPR fans must have went into the following campaign with a sense of assurance that it couldn’t be any worse as they geared up for newly promoted Swansea at Loftus Road. They were wrong.
New signing Rob Green, captured on a free transfer, would appear to be a coup in amongst their big money signings of the summer. The England international would start the R’s Premier League curtain raiser which would have given R’s fans even more reason for confidence. Green would shatter that confidence less than ten minutes into his QPR bow.
Michu, who’s storming start to the 2012/13 season propelled him to Premier League cult status, shot from just outside the box which should have produced a routine save for Green. Instead, the former West Ham man parried the ball into the bottom left hand corner to gift Michu a contrastingly dream start to life at Swansea.
Mark Hughes men remained in the game until half time, but Swansea exploited the chasmic gaps in QPR’s defence and enjoyed a 5-0 away win in their first ever Premier League fixture.
Green was number one for just two more games under Hughes with the capture of Champions League winning Julio Cesar seemingly in a desperate attempt to rectify the mistakes of the preseason transfer business.