It could hardly have gone any better for Dominic Calvert-Lewin. After the game he described it as a “dream”, a moment he will never forget.
Just 26 minutes into his England debut against Wales on Thursday night, the Everton striker rose to meet an inch-perfect Jack Grealish cross and planted his header emphatically past Wayne Hennessey.
The goal was hardly a surprise, given Calvert-Lewin’s prolific start to the Premier League season. And the 23-year-old’s all-round game impressed, too, before he was withdrawn in the second half, probably because Gareth Southgate plans to play him in more important games to come.
It was a memorable debut for Calvert-Lewin, then. He is not the only player to have made an instant impact for the Three Lions, though, even if a few of them couldn’t sustain that level of performance on the international stage.
With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at some of the best ever England debuts…
If Calvert-Lewin wants a goalscorer to model himself on, he could do worse than to watch footage of Shearer’s England debut.
The Newcastle legend, then just 22, was typically hungry to get on the scoresheet as England played France in a 1992 friendly. He managed it just before half-time, lashing home from a Nigel Clough corner on the way to a 2-0 win.
That was the first of 30 England goals for Shearer, who managed 63 caps over eight years for the national team.
Debut goals have rarely been as spectacular as the one Vassell scored against the Netherlands in 2002.
The former Aston Villa and Manchester City striker met a vintage David Beckham cross with a stunning overhead kick, which flew past a helpless Edwin van der Sar and into the top corner.
The friendly finished 1-1, but it was made memorable by Vassell’s goal. Danny Ings might claim his first strike in an England shirt against Wales on Thursday night was similarly impressive, but it didn’t quite meet the standard set in Amsterdam that night.
Lambert’s debut would have been special even if he hadn’t scored. His journey to the national team was truly unique: he had worked his way up from the lower reaches of the Football League and, at the age of 31, finally got his break after impressing with Southampton in the Premier League.
And he took his chance, scoring with his first touch off the bench to give England a 3-2 victory over Scotland in a 2013 friendly.
“If that's the only moment I'm going to have in an England shirt – hopefully not – I couldn't have wished for it to have been any better,” he said.
It wasn’t his only moment. Lambert made another 12 appearances for his country, making Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad in 2014 having joined Liverpool from Southampton.
An uncompromising defender even in his youth, Adams made his England debut at the age of 20 in 1987 and immediately looked at home.
The Arsenal defender was assured and confident alongside the more experienced Terry Butcher, catching the eye as England beat Spain 4-2. Gary Lineker got the plaudits, understandably given he scored all four goals. But Adams did enough to earn his place at the European Championship a year later.
“The boy has everything,” said then England manager Bobby Robson. “He is tall, quick, good in the air, reads the play well and, above all, seems to have great composure for a player of his age.”
Wise only scored once for England in 21 appearances, but that solitary goal came on his debut. It was an important one, too.
In a crucial qualifier for Euro 92 away in Turkey, a free-kick was launched into the box and fell to the Chelsea midfielder, who slightly fortuitously managed to beat the goalkeeper with a mistimed volley.
They all count, though, and Wise’s typically combative midfield performance helped England on the way to a 0-1 victory.
Nugent’s England career was perfect. There were no low points, no moments to forget. That’s because he only ever played one game for his country, but that in itself is quite impressive.
The former Leicester striker was gone as soon as he arrived, emerging as a late substitute in a 2007 European Championship qualifying match against Andorra. With seconds of the game remaining, he scored a tap-in to make the score 3-0 and ensure he went down in the record books.
He never played again for England and, barring a miraculous late run of form from the 35-year-old, it seems Nugent will remain a one-cap wonder.
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Greaves also scored on his England debut, though he managed to kick on and add another 43 in just 57 caps.
He was just 17 when he got his first, driving home the only goal for his country in a 4-1 defeat in Peru at the Estadio Nacional. The teenager’s performance was the only real bright spot for Walter Winterbottom’s side.
Greaves went on to briefly become England’s all-time goal scorer – later overtaken by Wayne Rooney, Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker – but felt his career for the national team was sullied by the fact he missed out on the 1966 World Cup final.
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