Making your debut for a new club can be as daunting an experience as they come. But playing your first cup game for your employers can be equally as intimidating given what is riding on the outcome of one game.
Cup competitions, in their essence, are free grey areas as teams battle to progress and avoid elimination. So to score or save a penalty at your first Capital One Cup match and ultimately emerge successful must produce a feeling of jubilation that a player will struggle to replicate throughout the rest of their career.
Obafemi Martins – Birmingham City
The Nigerian international had only joined Birmingham a month earlier but was summoned from the sidelines in the 83rd minute by Alex McLeish with the game poised at 1-1. It proved a masterstroke as Martins capitalised on a mistake from Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny to score the winning goal just six minutes after his introduction and bring the cup back to St Andrews.
Robbie Fowler – Liverpool
Nearly two decades have passed since the Toxteth Terror made a goal-scoring debut as a fresh faced 18-year-old away at Fulham. Alongside club legend Ian Rush in attack Fowler gave the Anfield faithful a taste of what was to come with a superb left footed volley to cap a comfortable 3-1 win. It was the beginning of an inseparable Merseyside love affair.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Arsenal
With a £15 million transfer fee weighing on his shoulders, you couldn’t blame Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for being apprehensive in the early weeks of his Arsenal career. But such was the teenager’s confidence following his move from Southampton that Arsene Wenger threw him straight into the first team fold. A League Cup bow against Shrewsbury saw him notch up his first Gunners’ goal with a stunning 25-yard strike and announce himself to the rest of England.
Paul Scholes – Manchester United
When Sir Alex Ferguson named 19-year-old Paul Scholes in the starting lineup against Port Vale in 1994 it hardly turned any heads. Two expertly taken goals later and the teenage debutant had undoubtedly justified his selection. Who knew that Scholes would go on to become of the greatest players of the modern generation?
Cesc Fabregas – Arsenal
It would be an exaggeration to say the fanfare that followed Cesc Fabregas’ arrival from Barcelona in 2003 was low key. But when the Spaniard made his Arsenal bow against Rotheram in the League Cup a month later, becoming the club’s youngest player at 16 years and 177 days, he was the toast of North London. A remarkably mature display from the midfielder certainly whetted the Gunners’ appetite as he went on to become the heartbeat of Arsene Wenger’s side.
Lenny Pidgeley – Millwall
With a goalkeeping crisis to contend with and a 4th Round tie against Birmingham looming, Millwall called upon the services of Pidgeley signing him on a seven-day emergency loan in 2005. The Chelsea stopper saved Jermaine Pennant’s penalty in the shootout but couldn’t save the Lions from elimination.
Fernando Torres – Liverpool
Goals were always guaranteed for Liverpool following Torres’ arrival from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2007 and he duly delivered his first hat-trick in a red shirt on his League Cup bow. Poor Reading were on the receiving end as the Spaniard demonstrated the ruthless nature that would bring him 81 goals in 142 games on Merseyside.
Jan Budzt – Manchester City
Arguably one of the more interesting League Cup debuts came in 2005 as League One Doncaster knocked out Manchester City. It was made all the more special by Budzt as he came on for injured goalkeeper Andy Warrington in the 105th minute of extra time and saved two penalties in the shootout to become an instant hero.
Julio Baptista – Arsenal
Despite managing to score three goals in 24 games, Baptista found his scoring touch on his first League Cup appearance for Arsenal. The striker, on-loan from Real Madrid, rattled in four goals and missed a penalty during the quarter final tie against Liverpool at Anfield.
Michael Owen – Liverpool
Goals had been Owen’s currency for over a decade before his decline and during his formative years at Liverpool he couldn’t stop scoring. Grimsby felt the full force of his powers as the teenage striker scored a hat-trick in just under an hour at Anfield on his first League Cup start.