What happened to…Brian Deane?
The date was the 15th August 1992. The match was Manchester United vs. Sheffield United. And after 15 minutes, the first goal in Premier League history was scored by a Mr Brian Deane, a commonly known fact for fans of English football trivia, earning Deane a spot in the history of the game. He actually scored the Blades’ winner that day as well, notching from the penalty spot to give them a 2-1 victory over the eventual Champions.
Deane was actually an experienced striker before he bagged that first goal, indeed his goal scoring record initially for Doncaster Rovers and then Sheffield United was pretty decent. He earned three caps for England under Graham Taylor, making his debut against New Zealand in 1991 before his final appearance in the Three Lions shirt came against Spain just weeks after his goal against Manchester United.
That first Premier League season proved to be his last at Bramall Lane and he became Leeds United’s record signing when he joined in the summer of 1993 for £2.9 million. His 83 goals in 198 games for the Blades was by far and away the best goal to appearance ratio he ever achieved at any club and he remains something of a cult hero at the club after returning in 1997 to score another 11 goals in that season.
Deano spent four years at Leeds United between 1993 and 1997 as Howard Wilkinson’s side struggled to live up to their title victory of 1991/92 and began to slip slowly down the league. Deane always worked hard up front, putting in a shift as a target man, but he found goals more difficult to come by at Elland Road, managing just 32 in his 138 games at the club. He formed effective partnerships up front for the Whites though, playing with Rod Wallace and Tony Yeboah during his time in West Yorkshire, but having been signed as a replacement for Lee Chapman, he struggled to replace the man whose goals had fired Leeds to the First Division title.
Once George Graham had taken over at Elland Road, Deane moved back to Sheffield United briefly, before securing a surprise switch to Benfica where Graeme Souness was the manager. Seven goals in 18 in Portugal proved that Deane still had the ability to find the back of the net at the highest level, prompting Middlesbrough to fork out to bring him back to England after less than a season. He actually managed three years with Boro, notching 18 goals in 87 appearances there, but that lack of goal scoring prowess saw him moved on to Leicester in 2001 with Middlesbrough struggling in the Premiership.
He bagged himself another piece of ‘first goal’ history with the Foxes as well, scoring the first competitive goal at the new Walkers Stadium by recording a double against Watford. 19 goals in 52 games followed in Leicester colours, a decent return that helped the side back into the Premier League following their disappointing relegation the year before. However, Deane had seemingly found his level in the First Division and joined recently relegated West Ham, now aged 35. He continued his nomadic existence as a footballer, lasting just one season at Upton Park before heading for the exit.
He rejoined Leeds United, who had just been relegated after a long stay in the Premier League, but the club was in financial turmoil and were struggling to put together a competitive squad. Deane did a job up front for a while amidst all the chaos, and the Elland Road crowd recognised his efforts, but by now, age appeared to have caught up with the striker. He managed six goals during the 2004/05 season with the Whites, but four of those came astonishingly during a 6-1 win over QPR, a game never forgotten by those who saw it. With Leeds starting to strengthen their squad under Kevin Blackwell, Deane moved onto to Sunderland, before ending his career with a brief spell at Perth Glory and a final two appearances back with Sheffield United in the 2005/06 season, making him the only player to turn out for the club in three different spells.
Deano enjoyed a fine career at the highest level for many years, though he never quite hit the top of the Premier League game. As a target man, he will always be remembered for his hard work up front, even if finishing was never his strong point. He now works as a Sports Consultant for a solicitor’s firm in Leeds, but after a long career of 654 league appearances and 195 goals, Brian Deane will always be remembered for that goal he scored on the 15th August 1992.