The Top 10 Premiership/Division 1 Season Openers


The months of waiting, eager anticipation, the hopes and fear, the prayers that this time it will be ok, that things will be different to last years effort, that this time it really will be 90 minutes of pure joy, instead of 90 minutes of pain. No, we're not talking about the wait for the latest James Blunt album, but the opening day of the season for football fans.

Here's our ten best opening games in the 1st tier of English football.

No.1 1888 Preston North End 5:2 Burnley

A 5:2 drubbing for PNE over one of their local Lancashire rivals would be a pretty notable victory in any year, but on September 8th 1888 the victory was extra special as it was the season opener for the first ever round of English Football League fixtures. Preston would go on to win the 12 team league that year, indeed they remained unbeaten for the entire duration of the season. And they won the FA Cup too, their 3:0 victory over Wolves meant they became the first (and as of 2007, only) team to go through an entire season unbeaten in both the league and FA Cup.

No.2 1994 Sheffield Wednesday 3:4 Spurs

The Jurgen Klinnsman debut, featuring 'that' goal celebration. A red hot Saturday afternoon at Hillsborough, and a red hot atmosphere in the stands, as the home crowd dish out some serious abuse for the Premierships new public enemy no. 1, Spurs' big name signing with the even bigger reputation for diving. But the German is on his best behaviour, and he rounds off a fantastic end to end game with a brilliant chip followed by the famous mock dive celebration right in front of the home fans who'd been giving him the bird.

No.3 1946 Preston North End 3:2 Leeds Utd

Nearly seven years after the last set of first division games, the 31st August 1946 saw the kick off for the first football season since the 2nd World War had started. With so many things being rationed, the appetite for football up and down the country was huge, and no more so than at Deepdale, where the home crowd's 7 year wait for top class football was rewarded with a fine game against Billy Hampson's Leeds Utd side. Not only did this game mark the return of league football, it also saw the debut of a 24 year old outside-right called Tom Finney. A brace from Leeds' left winger Dennis Grainger looked as if it had grabbed the headlines, but Finney had other ideas, capping a fine debut by scoring a goal and setting up another as North End won 3:2.

No.4 2005 Aston Villa 2:2 Bolton Wanderers

Villa v Bolton was hardly the most mouth watering of starters for the 2005-06 Premiership, but the opening 9 minutes was one of the finest in the competition's history. The 33,000 inside Villa Park had to wait 4 minutes until the fun began, when Kevin Philips headed Aaron Hughes's cross for the games opener. 2 minutes later Kevin Davies volleyed home an equaliser, and another 2 minutes later the Holte End was left open-mouthed as Ivan Campo headed in from a corner. An incredible 5 minutes was completed as Steve Davis volleyed past Jaaskelainen to make it 2:2. And there could have been more as the next ten minutes saw further chances go begging. But as is often the case, the remainder of the game settled down to a drab stalemate, but after a start like that no-one could complain too much.

No.5 1996 Derby County 3:3 Leeds Utd

With just 18 minutes left at their old Baseball ground it looked as if newly promoted Derby County were going to suffer a miserable return to the 1st tier of English football, as Ian Harte made it 2 nil to Leeds. It had been a pretty unremarkable game up until that point, but things were about to change dramatically. 5 minutes later Dean Sturridge pulled one back and then just a minute later Paul Simpson nearly lifted the roof off when he equalised. As the home team suddenly looked like they could win it, Leeds hit back and regained the lead, Lee Bowyer looking like he'd grabbed the 3 points just four minutes after Simpson's leveller. But this epic finish had one more sting in it's tail - with just 2 minutes remaining Dean Sturridge crashed in his 2nd of the game. There were still chances for both teams to grab a fairytale victory, but the game eventually finished 3:3.

No.6 1991 Sheffield Wednesday 2:3 Aston Villa

As often happens in these situations, the boffins behind the fixture list computer showed that they do have a sense of humour by arranging Big Ron to go back to his former club on the first day of the season. Atkinson had outraged the Hillsborough faithful by insisting he was staying with them before leaving for Villa just days later. The home fans had 6 weeks to wind themselves up into a frenzy, and showed they hadn't wasted their time with displays of mock hangings, 'Judas Atkinson' signs, and a tasty welcoming committee for a man who only a couple of months before had been their idol. If justice had been done then the Owls would have romped to a 5:0 win, but football works in mysterious ways, and Big Ron's new charges took advantage of serial flapper Chris Woods to win a cracking match 3:2. There would be some consolation for Wednesday fans as they finished the season 3rd, four places above Villa.

No. 7 1977 Everton 1:3 Notts Forest

Fresh from leading Forest into the top flight for the first time in 5 years, Brian Clough took his troops to Goodison Park for their first game. Forest had only gained promotion in 3rd place and were among the favourites to go straight back down, but with the likes of Peter Shilton, Tony Woodcock and Kenny Burns all on top form, they held their own and totally outclassed Everton, sweeping them aside with an impressive 3:1 win. At this point no-one was expecting Forest to continue with such form. But they did, holding their own incredibly right to the end of the season, as they joined an elite group of clubs who have won the 1st Division immediately after promotion. Old Big 'Ead would ensure that English football would not be the same again.

No.8 1925 Aston Villa 10:0 Burnley

The opening day of 1925-26 season saw the introduction of a new offside rule - the old "3 opponent" rule being changed to a "2 opponent rule", the basic premiss being that an attacking player couldn't be offside if 2 (instead of the previous 3) opponents were nearer to their own goal when the ball was passed through. The fantastically named Burnley gaffer, Albert Pickles, and his coaching staff obviously hadn't got the message over to their players, as Villa ran riot in scenes reminiscent of the old Harry Enfield Arsenal v Liverpool sketch.

No.9 1984 Everton 1:4 Spurs

When Peter Shreeves' Spurs side opened the 1984 season in style with a 4:1 victory at Goodison, many hacks thought they'd seen a genuine contender for the title. They had. Everton would go on to win the title despite this 1st day debacle, finishing 13 points ahead of Tottenham who would grab 3rd place. The game itself had started out as a celebration of Everton's new found success - the FA Cup and Charity Shield being paraded around the ground before kick off. And when Adrian Heath put the home side into the lead the home fans basked in the sun thinking this could be their year. It would indeed be their year, but not in this game. No-one had reckoned with Clive Allen having the season of his life, starting from day one as Spurs ran riot and came back to record a 4:1 thumping.

No.10 1992 Arsenal 2:4 Norwich City

A classic opener from the inaugural Premier League season. This time mighty Arsenal, 2 up against Mike Walker's Norwich City, through Bould and Campbell, look like they might start the season with a hatful. But the carrot crunching bumpkins from Norfolk had different ideas. Walker, only in the job 2 months, changes things around after the interval and Norwich start to come into the game. However, with just over 20 minutes to go, the Canaries are still 2 down. A goal from Mark Robins makes it 2:1, and three minutes later Dave Phillips levels things up. Norwich then go goal crazy, Ruel Fox makes it 3:2 and just 2 minutes later Robins gets his 2nd, and Norwich's fourth to complete a famous comeback.