Sheffield United: The human stories behind the first ever Premier League goal

Brian Deane can picture it now; the moment when Carl Bradshaw's long-throw sliced through the warm summer air and, flinging himself towards it, he wrote his name into the history books by scoring the first Premier League goal.

By James Shield
Thursday, 15 August, 2019, 21:40
Brian Deane Sheffield Utd v Manchester United. Scoring first Premiership goal. 15th August 1992

Dave Walker will never forget those split few seconds either. And for very good reason. Twenty-seven years later, after the centre-forward's header helped Sheffield United beat their namesakes from Manchester, a permanent reminder is wedged into a drawer at his father's home.

"I got Deano's shirt," Walker says, remembering that mid-August afternoon at Bramall Lane. "I was a young lad at the time and we were quite close to him. Dad always got us a season ticket just by the dug-outs so, when the players were walking off at the end, Deano spotted him, asked where I was, and handed it over."

Nearly three decades on, as United prepare for Sunday's game against Crystal Palace, Chris Wilder and his squad are hoping to set some records of their own. The match, the club's first at the highest level since 2007, has to potential to become another memorable occasion. After opening the campaign with a trip to Bournemouth, it will introduce a generation of United fans to top-flight football. But barring something remarkable, this weekend's fixture is unlikely to capture the imagination quite like Deane's effort against opponents who, under Sir Alex Ferguson's stewardship, went on to lift the title.

Brian Deane and with his former team mate Tony Agana

Back then, on 15 August 1992, Sheffield was a very different place to the modern, vibrant metropolis it is now. Four months earlier, Neil Kinnock had delivered a bombastic speech inside the city's shiny new arena. Eight days later, when the country went to the polls in the general election, the Labour leader definitely wasn't alright as John Major's Tories retained their grip on power. Trams had yet to start running. Deane, who turned 51 in February, was still aged 24. Not to mention, as he describes the manoeuvre which saw him beat Peter Schmeichel, blissfully unaware of his effort's significance.

"I was too engrossed in the game," Deane admits, "To be honest, I was only doing my job. The first emotion I felt was actually one of relief because that got me off the mark for the season. And doing that, for us strikers anyway, always relieves a bit of the pressure."

"To be honest because it was early, after five minutes or so, it felt pretty easy," he continues. "Bradders put the ball in, Alan Cork was brilliant with his movement, and that gave me the chance to nip in between Denis Irwin and Steve Bruce. I knew I could get there because I was still fresh, we hadn't been playing for an hour, so instinct just took over. But what I didn't realise was that it was the first Premier League goal."

Deane, who went on to claim a second as United ran-out 2-1 winners, only discovered its importance in the dressing room at half time. "Someone told me but, honestly, I couldn't tell you who."

Bramall Lane hosts Premier League football again on Sunday

Walker, skipping along the South Stand concourse, was also oblivious. After all, this was the era when many supporters relied on The Green 'Un or pocket radios to tell them the scores.

"It wasn't until we got back and watched Match of the Day on the telly that I found out," he says. "We knew getting it (the shirt) was special because, before we even left the ground, about three different cameramen had offered a grand apiece for it. They clearly wanted it pretty badly. Now I know why."

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Walker, who lives in Thurcroft, has received plenty of offers since.

"People have said they'd pay tons for it," he laughs. "But I'd never sell it, no way. It's a piece of history and that's something to cherish isn't it. The only place I'd put it is in the museum at the ground, because they've got the ball there but not the shirt. I'd love to do that. But get rid of it? Never. Even Deano himself has told me that, knowing what he does now, he wishes he'd never given it away."

Brian Deane in action for Sheffield United

Deane has another regret too, albeit one tracing back to an incident which happened sometime later.

"I'm actually quite a reserved person and I was always on my guard a little bit because of that," he says. "Even later on, I didn't appreciate what that goal meant to people. I can remember being away in Marbella quite a while afterwards and this guy came up and said 'You're Brian Deane, you got the first Premier League goal.' Because I don't really like the limelight, I just sort of shrugged and walked off. Looking back, I wish I could meet him again and tell him sorry. Because he was only pleased to see me. And I still wasn't properly aware of what getting it meant. For me, back then, it was just another goal. It was my job."

Deane remains a hero to United supporters, including present day captain Billy Sharp. A lifelong Blade, he grew-up idolising the former England international, who also represented the likes of Benfica, Leicester City and his hometown club Leeds. Although Sharp progressed through United's youth system, Deane understands why Wilder's side - a number of whom have experienced life in the semi-professional ranks - have been able to claw themselves from the third to the first tier of the domestic pyramid in only three seasons.

"When I was younger, I worked collecting glasses in a nightclub called Foxes," he explains. "It's gone now but it was pretty well known in Leeds at the time. A lot of people in there looked down on me because of that, they treated me differently because of the job I was doing. That's where I got my hunger from. I had that determination to prove people wrong."

Sheffield United legend Brian Deane scored the first Premier League goal
The Labour Shadow Cabinet on stage at Sheffield Arena with Neil Kinnock (right) during the Sheffield Rally
Sheffield is a very different place now than in 1992
Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)