Pompey Opening Day Heroes Eleven31.07.17
Often the curtain raiser to a new season doesn’t live up to a long summer of high expectations… sometimes, thankfully, it does
Former NASA intern and one-time England under-21 keeper Hislop was between the sticks for Pompey’s first-ever Premier League game against Aston Villa in 2003. In a game of unbearable tension for the Fratton Faithful, Shaka's shot-stopping and assured handling established a platform for the Blues to go on and win the game.
There have been two John McLaughlin’s to play for Pompey (though neither were members of the Mahavishnu Orchestra); one played a five-game spell on loan from Liverpool and the other stuck around for 172 games after signing on from Swindon. It’s the latter we’re concerned with here, the one who scored with a long-range effort on his debut against Hartlepool in the opening game of the 1979-80 season.
Basingstoke-boy Symons came through the youth ranks at Pompey playing 160 games before being shipped out to Man City. The curtain-raising game of the 1994-95 campaign saw Kit captaining the side against Notts County and his spectacular bullet-header turned out to be the difference between the two teams in a narrow 2-1 win.
When Harry Redknapp snaffled Taylor away from Luton in 2002 the Hatters’ manager Joe Kinnear was heard to lament: “at least Dick Turpin had the decency to war a mask.” It was plain to see from his dynamic performance in the opening game of the 2002/03 season (home to Nottingham Forest) that the £750,000 paid for him really was an absolute steal.
The Manchester-born Reggae Boy was a fairly consistent performer for the Blues in the ’90s scoring 37 goals in 188 games. Hall’s 80th minute volleyed equaliser at Maine Road at the outset of the 1997-98 gained Pompey a priceless point in a 2-2 draw. Better still, it also managed to temporarily silence Citeh celeb fan Liam Gallagher (which is a neat trick at any time).
Pompey got off to a flier on the opening day of the 2015-16 thanks to an electric brace from debutant Kyle Bennett in a convincing 3-0 win against Dagenham & Redbridge. The likeable Bennett just may have raised the expectations of the Fratton faithful a notch too high after his initial headline-grabbing performance.
Entering the 2002/03 season Harry Redknapp handed the captain’s armband to Nigel Quashie, then after signing Paul Merson he promptly took it back again and gave it to the former England man. It turned out to be the correct decision and Merson’s top-drawer quality oozed throughout his curtain-raising debut against Nottingham Forest.
The bustling left-winger was signed from Swansea in 1961 and promptly scored 20 seconds into his debut against Swindon with his first touch. Dynamite Dave grabbed the limelight again on the opening day of the 1962-63 campaign notching a hat-trick in a 4-1 win at Walsall.
It didn't take long for the debutant to show the Fratton faithful what he is all about in a 2-0 opening day win over Rochdale. The recently-appointed skipper's two goals were both classy affairs. The first saw him cut inside from the left wing and confound a couple of defenders with nimble feet before rifling into the bottom corner. The other was an imperious header from close to the penalty spot from a Gareth Evans cross.
Corporal Punishment took the match ball home on the first day of the 1992-93 season with a well-taken hat-trick against Bristol City at Ashton Gate. However, the points were shared in a 3-3 draw that also saw a young Andy Cole score for the Robins.
The Blues overpowered nine-man Blackburn in the first game of the 2006-07 season with Kanu scoring twice on debut after coming on as a substitute. The ageless Nigerian fluffed his chance of a hat-trick by missing a penalty, but his most important goals for Pompey were yet to come.