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The Three Debut Lions: England’s Greatest First Caps

September 08, 2015

- Grant Whittington

While appearing in the Champions League may now dominate the thoughts of young players throughout the UK, there is no doubt that representing England remains the pinnacle for most young footballers. Even allowing for club vs. country rows, the prestige of the Champions League and the riches that are afforded to successful players in the modern age, playing for your country of birth is an honour that ranks above all others.

As you would expect, we have seen some incredible and memorable England débuts throughout history, and while some players have gone on to build successful international careers others have fallen by the wayside. With this in mind, here are three of our favourite England débuts at bethut.co.uk…

Lee Hendrie (v Czech Republic, 1998)

After being declared bankrupt and experiencing a huge decline in his fortunes, it is hard to believe that former Aston Villa starlet Lee Hendrie was once one of the most exciting young players in the English game. Success under John Gregory’s tutorship in the 1997-98 season brought Hendrie to the attention of then England manager Glenn Hoddle, who duly gave the young midfielder a debut ahead of West Ham’s Frank Lampard. Although he only appeared as a second-half substitute, Hendrie was sublime and produced a virtuoso display of skill, craft and vision. Despite being described Hoddle himself as ‘absolutely magnificent’ , however, Hendrie’s debut represented his only England appearance as this career entered a downward slide from which it could not be recovered.

David Beckham (V Moldova, 1996)

While Manchester United youngster Beckham was neat and tidy rather than spectacular on his England debut, the inclusion of the midfielder was memorable for the column inches that it had generated in the press. After success in the previous season, Beckham has scored with a stunning 50-yard chip over a back pedalling Neil Sullivan on the opening day of the season, illuminating a routine 3-0 win for Manchester United against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park. An impressed Hoddle was encouraged to select Beckham for his upcoming World Cup qualification squad, and the young starlet did not let him down as he embarked on a stunning international career.

Owen Hargreaves (v Holland, 2001)

Few international débuts can have been as assured in tackling, tracking and seamless ball distribution. The midfield lynch-pin that England craved, Hargreaves went on to enjoy an excellent career despite not moving to the country until 2007 when Manchester United signed him from Bayern Munich. His performance for 10-man England in the 2006 World Cup quarter-final against Portugal was particularly memorable, and were it not for a series of knee injuries Hargreaves’ debut would have surely been the start of an even greater career.

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