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Fourteen debuts and counting – Forest on track to break Portsmouth record

Nottingham Forest v Valencia – Pre Season Friendly – Meadow Lane
(Image credit: Zac Goodwin)

Nottingham Forest are chasing Portsmouth’s 17-year record of most debutants in a Premier League season, PA analysis shows.

Fourteen of Steve Cooper’s summer signings have made their league debuts in the opening six matches of 2022-23.

With deadline day arrivals Willy Boly, Loic Bade and Serge Aurier yet to feature – and the January transfer window still to come – Forest are on course to overtake Portsmouth’s record of 21 debuts in a single season, set all the way back in 2005-06.

  • Taiwo Awoniyi
  • Dean Henderson
  • Giulian Biancone
  • Moussa Niakhate
  • Harry Toffolo
  • Lewis O'Brien
  • Jesse Lingard
  • Neco Williams
  • Orel Mangala
  • Cheikhou Kouyate
  • Emmanuel Dennis
  • Remo Freuler
  • Morgan Gibbs-White
  • Renan Lodi

Pompey’s year of change

Portsmouth's Harry Redknapp and Benjani Mwaruwari

Harry Redknapp returned as Portsmouth manager in 2005-06 (Rui Vieira/PA)

Portsmouth handed out 21 debuts in 2005-06, having struggled to a 16th-placed finish in the previous campaign.

Alain Perrin was in charge at the start of the season, but was sacked in November with Pompey in the relegation zone.

Harry Redknapp – who had left for rivals Southampton only a year earlier – returned to the club in December and ultimately secured safety.

Perrin awarded 12 players their league debuts before his dismissal, while Redknapp named nine further debutants on the back of a busy January transfer window.

  • Andy O'Brien
  • Laurent Robert
  • Jhon Viafara
  • Azar Karadas
  • Gregory Vignal
  • Sander Westerveld
  • Collins Mbesuma
  • Brian Priske
  • Zvonimir Vukic
  • Salif Diao
  • Dario Silva
  • Franck Songo'o
  • Emmanuel Olisadebe
  • Benjani Mwaruwari
  • Noe Pamarot
  • Pedro Mendes
  • Sean Davis
  • Dean Kiely
  • Wayne Routledge
  • Andres D'Alessandro
  • Ognjen Koroman

The mid-season arrivals took a while to gel – Pompey took one point from eight games between the new year and early March – but they eventually found form.

Led by the likes of Pedro Mendes and Benjani Mwaruwari, Redknapp’s side earned 20 points from their final 10 matches to survive in 17th.

The next two seasons under Redknapp were the club’s most successful since the late 1940s – Pompey finished ninth in 2006-07 and eighth in 2007-08, winning the FA Cup in the latter campaign.

However, Portsmouth had dropped down to League Two by 2013-14, having entered administration twice in the intervening years.

Tough in transition

(PA graphic)

(PA graphic)

Teams generally struggle initially following an influx of new players.

Fulham are currently second and third on the list for most debuts in a single season, behind Portsmouth, with 20 in 2013-14 and 19 in 2007-08.

The Cottagers were relegated in the more recent season but – like Pompey in 2005-06 – managed to survive in 2007-08. Roy Hodgson engineered a great escape as Fulham won four of their last five games.

In the same season, Derby handed debuts to 17 players but to no avail. The Rams won just 11 points from 38 matches, a record low in the Premier League era.

Tony Fernandes

QPR were busy in the transfer market in their early seasons under majority shareholder Tony Fernandes (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

QPR splashed the cash in 2011-12 and 2012-13, with 33 players making their first appearance for the club across the two seasons.

This included 18 in the first year – best remembered for their dramatic 3-2 defeat at Manchester City on the final day – and 15 in the second, at the end of which they were relegated in 20th position.

In all, four of the nine teams that awarded 17 or more debuts in a single season were relegated, while four finished just above the drop zone in 17th.

Only Liverpool in 2015-16 managed to stay clear of trouble. Jurgen Klopp handed several young players their debuts towards the end of his first season, in which the Reds finished eighth.

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