Stevenage debut darlings: DJ Campbell

Tyler Walker didn’t hang around when he came in; the loan ranger from Nottingham Forest capping his Stevenage debut with two goals. In doing so, he moved to within 215 goals of Martin Gittings‘ long-standing club record. Almost there! And, if you’re going to start your Boro’ career with a bang, an overhead kick is the way to do it. It almost glosses over the fact that his second was delightfully clinical.

Walker’s brace helped to put Hartlepool to the sword and it got us thinking. And, when we say “thinking”, we do have one particular thing in mind. And you don’t need to suggest some because we’re way ahead of you on this. We had a gander at all the lads who started life at Boro’ in an ostentatious manner. We’re talking about all those many new arrivals who used their Stevenage debut to make their scoring presence felt. Now, because our research remains incomplete, this isn’t a definitive list. But these are – at least – seven of the best…

 

7 Stevenage Debut Darlings

Now, we’re going to do this in date order. And, because we’re still doing our homework, we aren’t yet able to say with total certainty when the lads pre-1988 made their debut. So, our apologies to Kevin Lowe and Ricky Marshall. They may well have had a Stevenage debut to remember. We just don’t know right now. If you can help, here are the line-ups we’re missing.

Paul Grant vs Berkhamsted Town, 1988

First up, here’s a Boro’ side that’s now back in the Vauxhall Opel League Division 2 North. And life after Division One isn’t starting well; two defeats in our first two games not what we need. But there wasn’t a third. Paul Grant came in to inspire a 5-1 thrashing of Berkhamsted Town with a brace. It’d account for half of all his goals in our colours, however…

Mark Smith vs Bognor Regis Town, 1992

Did you know that Boro’s former record appearance maker started his career with us as a forward? Well, he did. In what we can only guess was a protest at not yet being moved to the centre of defence, Smudger banging in four goals on debut. Bognor Regis Town didn’t know what hit them. For us, it was the start of a very beautiful relationship.

Daley Thompson vs Ware, 1994

The 1994-5 season is the last time that Boro’ competed in the Eastern Floodlit League. It’s a competition we never won, either. But it wasn’t without its memories. And our last outing gave us one last blast. Enter one of our Olympic greats. Daley Thompson’s post-decathlon career brought him to us for one night only. And Thompson showed he was no slouch on the football field; turning out against Ware and scoring twice, before riding off into the sunset.

Dean Wordsworth vs Farnborough, 1997

Dean Wordsworth arrived at Boro’ (us, not Farnborough – obviously) in November 1997; his task a big ‘un. After losing super striker Barry Hayles to Bristol Rovers after failing to retain the title in 1996-7, we were short on firepower up top. But in came Deano and got two on debut. Does that mean we’d found the man to fill Bazza’s shoes? In the end, the answer was “no, not really”; Boro’ finding the 1997-8 campaign a struggle – despite our cup exploits.

Drewe Broughton vs Forrest Gump, 2000

Paul Fairclough‘s Boro’ side were nothing if inconsistent during the first half of the 2000-1 season. To give us a bit of oomph in attack, Cloughie drafted in Drewe Broughton on loan; the forward having an instant impact. Two goals (and a booking on debut) against Forest Green in mid-December ended a run of four games without a win. He featured three more times going into early January, only scoring one more. But we were unbeaten in that spell.

A coincidence? Yes, we think it probably was.

DJ Campbell vs Hayes, 2001

The goalscorer that Boro’ had been crying out for during the 2000-1 season? DJ Campbell made it look like that with a productive debut away to Hayes in August 2001; his brace the reason for our 2-0 win that day. But he couldn’t fully establish himself in the side; a change in management midway through the season not helping. He only added three more to his tally for us, although one settled our FA Trophy quarter final against Stalybridge. DJ added another in the semi final second leg against Morecambe too.

Not sure we had him down as a potential Premier League player, however. And yet he did go on to prove us wrong there…

Darryn Stamp vs Farnborough, 2005

In need of an extra boost as we chased down the 2004-5 Nationwide Conference playoffs, Darryn Stamp came in towards the end of January 2005
Photo: Kevin Coleman

In need of an extra boost as we chased down the 2004-5 Nationwide Conference playoffs, Darryn Stamp came in towards the end of January 2005. He arrived from a pre-expunging Chester City; hitting the ground running by bagging a brace versus Farnborough on debut. It’s almost as if making your Boro’ bow against Farnborough is a lucky omen. Stampy then added six more goals that season to put us within 90 minutes of the Football League.

Paging Michael Warner.

 

Not only, but also…

So, what do we have here then? Oh yes – a little bonus feature. A tip of the cap, a nudge and a wink to all those lads for whom their debut here could have gone a little better. Let’s pay tribute to Brian Statham (vs Kingstonian, 1999); Joel Byrom (vs Tamworth, 2009) and Tom Hitchcock (vs Notts County, 2015). Eager to make a good first impression, it all came to an earlier end than planned.

Didn’t you also have…?

The eagle-eyed among you will know that we had eight names in this piece to start with; Carl Adams in the mix for a hattrick ‘on debut’ against Gateshead back in 1997. But that was actually not the case. Adams instead made his Boro’ bow four days beforehand in a Spalding Cup Round Two defeat at Rushden. The Heed game was technically his home debut. But that ain’t quite what we’re after here.

Photos: Mark Smith (Action Images); DJ Campbell (The Comet library)

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BoroGuide runs the show around here, and has done since that glorious summer of 2002. We're not sure why it was so glorious; maybe it's the delirum of reliving David Seaman watching Ronald Eeeeenyo's lob drift over him. That and Boro' reaching the FAT final at Villa Park – not Wembley.