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MICHAEL DUBERRY COLUMN: A winning debut - that's a rarity
5:50pm Wednesday 14th August 2013 in Sport
ON Saturday, I made my debut for Hendon in a 4-0 win over Thamesmead.
It was the ninth debut of my professional career and to my surprise, only the second time I had won.
My record of two wins and seven losses is ridiculous – even more so because I remember all of my debuts apart from one, and that was the other win, when I first played for Leeds United.
I am surprised at the poor start I have made with teams, but I don’t think it is a reflection on my time with them.
The first debut of my career was for Chelsea against Coventry on May 4 1994 as an 18-year-old.
There was no hype or build-up of me breaking into the first team and we had just reached the FA Cup final.
With just two games to go, I didn’t expect to figure.
I wasn’t nervous before the game and that is one thing that has remained consistent throughout my career.
I remember I was up against Peter Ndlovu and spent the best part of 90 minutes chasing him around.
He was very fast, very tricky and very annoying as he would never keep still.
The clearest memory of that debut was that I got cramp in my calves just nine minutes in.
It must have been nervous energy as I was a very fit young man, but I was forced to count down the Stamford Bridge clock for 81 minutes.
My next debut was for Bournemouth when on loan from Chelsea.
We were away to Stockport County and I remember how weird it felt putting on a kit other than Chelsea’s.
We were battered 3-1 and I was thinking to myself ‘Oh wow, everyone must think I am rubbish’.
I don’t recall much of the match, but do remember the post-game team talk from the manager, Mel Machin.
He went around ripping the whole team, starting from the goalkeeper.
He was so brutal it was eye-opening and when he was getting nearer me, the nerves really started.
But instead he started to boost and compliment me.
He said I was the only one to come out with any credit and if I wanted to go back to Chelsea, he would understand why.
I was shocked, but like a good pro, I didn’t argue.
My first winning debut was for Leeds at Southampton in 1999, but it’s all a blur.
I should really remember it because my roommate and good friend Michael Bridges scored a hat-trick in a 3-0 win on what was his debut too – but I can’t.
Upton Park was the venue for my first Stoke start while on loan from Leeds. We were having to defend alot and were on the back-foot for most of the game to a very good West Ham team, who eventually ran out 2-0 winners.
Defeat on my Reading debut left me particularly gutted, as it was their first loss in ten games.
It is obviously not the impact you want on a new team.
I actually remember playing well against my old Leeds teammate Mark Viduka, but we still lost 2-1.
An opening day League One fixture against Charlton Athletic at Valley Parade was the setting for my Wycombe Wanderers debut.
I had an extra incentive to win as Charlton tried to sign me in the summer, but I chose Wycombe instead.
We lost 3-2 and after the game when Charlton manager Alan Curbishley manager shook my hand I felt he was thinking ‘What a big mistake you made.’ My last appearance for Wycombe came in a 1-0 defeat at Southampton on December 1, 2009.
I did not play again until February 2010, after I had moved to Scotland to join St Johnstone.
I went into my debut – a fourth round Scottish Cup clash at home to rivals Dundee United – with a bit of ‘flu.
I played well and so did the team, but we lost 1-0 and after being brought in to have a big influence, it wasn’t the start I wanted.
The only positive was that the manager was happy with my performance. Again, I just didn’t argue.
After moving back south, the Don Valley Stadium is where it all started for my Oxford United career in a match against Rotherham.
It was a strange atmosphere with the athletics track around the pitch and the crowd so far away.
The game was even, but we lost 1-0 to a fabulous strike by Lewis Grabban.
I wasn’t too down after that game as despite the defeat, I still thought we had a great chance of winning the league.
A successful start for Hendon was nice, but when I look back on my debuts, I am pleased that even after a mainly losing beginning, I went on to have a good time with all the teams I played for.
I believe that I turned out to be a good purchase or addition to all my sides, and maybe it’s true that it’s not how you start it’s how you finish.
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