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Six Of The Best: A look at some top claret and blue debuts
Stand-out debuts from the Premier League years.
3rd Jun 2014
Six Of The Best: A look at some top claret and blue debuts


Here is a look at some top debuts from the Premier League era as we continue our summer feature series.

DION DUBLIN

On the eve of his debut, West Brom fan Dion Dublin revealed that he would love to follow in the footsteps of his boyhood hero Cyrille Regis by scoring in his first Villa game.

In the event he went one better. A few days after his £5.75m signing from Coventry City, Dublin was on target twice in the space of four minutes as top-of-the-table Villa beat Tottenham 3-2 in November 1998.

Dublin struck first on the half-hour mark, despatching a close-range shot following some sloppy Spurs defending at a corner.

Four minutes later he pounced again, once again capitalising on more defensive hesitation to slide home a low shot from just inside the penalty area.

Stan Collymore effectively sealed victory when he added number three just after the break before a Darren Anderton penalty and a Ramon Vega goal made the score-line closer than it should have been.

Even then, Dublin had the ball in the net again, only to be denied by an offside decision. His first Villa hat-trick would have to wait a week...

Carbone

BENITO CARBONE

He didn't score and the outcome was a dreary 1-1 draw against Wimbledon.

But Benito Carbone's emergence on to the Villa Park in October 1999 was pure theatre.

Forget the score-line or the sterile fare on offer for much of the match. Whenever the Italian midfielder was in possession of the ball, there was always a sense of anticipation and excitement.

It was magic with meaning, too. Signed on a short-term contract from Sheffield Wednesday a few days earlier, Carbone was an instant hit in his new arena.

He created chance after chance with eel-like twists and deft flicks which at times had the crowd gasping in amazement. One supporter even called BBC Five Live's 606 programme to say he had seen nothing like it in 39 years of following Villa.

The only reason the Italian failed to crown his captivating performance with a goal was the brilliance of keeper Neil Sullivan, who saved Carbone shots from a range of distances.

At least Benito had the satisfaction of turning defender Kenny Cunningham inside-out before crossing for Dion Dublin to head Villa's equaliser.

Mellberg

OLOF MELLBERG

Four players made their Villa debuts in a goalless draw at Tottenham on the opening day of the 2001-02 campaign but one remains etched in the memory.

While Peter Schmeichel, Moustapha Hadji and Hassan Kachloul all made satisfying starts to their claret-and-blue careers, Olof Mellberg was immense.

That will be no surprise to anyone who watched the Sweden international evolve into one of the finest central defenders in the club's history. But we shouldn't forget that when Mellberg stepped out at White Hart Lane his previous Villa action amounted to just 70 minutes in a friendly against his former club Racing Santander.

After two seasons in Swedish football and three years in Spain, he might have been expected to need time to adjust to the different demands of the English game but, as one reporter observed, "he looked to the manor born in an impressive debut that had Villa fans drooling."

Mellberg maintained that high standard throughout a Villa career which spanned seven seasons.

Petrov

STILIYAN PETROV

It was billed as the West Ham circus as the Hammers paraded their much-publicised new signings Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.

But there was no question about the star turn in Upton Park's big top in September 2006.

Before the game, Stiliyan Petrov had seemed no more than a support act to the Argentine duo. By the end, he had outshone both of them in a 1-1 draw.

While Tevez was restricted to a 29-minute sub appearance and Mascherano remained on the bench, Villa's new arrival displayed the balance of a tightrope walker, the anticipation of a trapeze artist and the bravery of a lion tamer as he delighted Villa's travelling band of supporters and millions of armchair viewers.

The Bulgarian midfielder was strong in the tackle and astute with his distribution - and was also agonisingly close to a goal which would have transformed his man-of-the-match display into a dream debut.

Moving on to a Steven Davis pass, he flicked the ball over keeper Roy Carroll, only for Tyrone Mears to make seemingly impossible clearance from under the bar.

Knight

ZAT KNIGHT

As a youngster, Zat Knight used to gaze longingly through gaps in the Villa Park turnstiles, dreaming of one day playing for his favourite team.

In September 2007 Zat's boyhood dream came true when he made his debut against Chelsea after signing from Fulham earlier in the week.

And a special day for the lifelong fan became even more special two minutes after half-time. Chelsea's corner count was already in double figures by that stage, but when Gareth Barry delivered Villa's first flag kick of the game, Knight climbed to power home a header.

A Gabby Agbonlahor goal on the counter attack two minutes from the end clinched a 2-0 win against Jose Mourinho's men, who had not lost a Premier League game since January. What an unforgettable day for Knight.

Draper

MARK DRAPER

Mark Draper, Gareth Southgate and Savo Milosevic all had good reason to feel satisfied after helping Villa to a famous 3-1 victory over Manchester United on the opening day of the 1995-96 campaign.

And it was particularly sweet for Draper, whose 26th minute goal established a 2-0 lead for a revamped Villa side who were bristling with confidence and intent.

It was a goal worthy of any game, too. Alan Wright, Draper and Dwight Yorke were involved in a smooth build-up before Milosevic played the ball back to Draper.

The summer signing from Leicester City feigned to fire toward the far post - and then drilled a low shot inside Peter Schmeichel's near post.

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