Q & A: Going down, going down .. and the real Real McCoy

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My brother Neil Robinson played in teams that were relegated from every division of the Football League (before the Premier League). He went down from the First and Second with Swansea City, from the Second and Third with Grimsby Town and from the Fourth with Darlington. Luckily he has now retired, but can any player match or beat his dubious record?

Terry Dolan, Bobby Hoy, Jimmy Lawson, Geoff Hutt, Les Chapman and Steve Smith all suffered relegation from each division of the old Football League with the same club, Huddersfield Town. The Terriers dropped, like a large, heavy object, from the First in 1971-72, the Second a season later, and the Third in 1974-75 - the most traumatic experience of my childhood.

To continue a catalogue of misery, Dolan had been with Bradford Park Avenue when they dropped out of the League in 1969-70, Hutt went down from Third to Fourth with York City in 1976-77 and, like Lawson and Hoy, was a member of Halifax sides which had to apply for re-election in the Seventies. - Dougie Thomson, Huddersfield.

Are there any examples of players working at playing left-handed in order to exploit the perceived advantages?

The amiable snooker maestro Dennis Taylor will unflinchingly adopt a left- handed stance, should the dextral alternative necessitate the use of the dreaded 'furniture'. - Dave Arnold, Portland, Dorset.

What are the country's best-supported football clubs as regards average attendances expressed as a percentage of the town's population?

For many decades, Burnley FC enjoyed strong support that belied the size of the town's population. Before the First World War, home crowds were 'nudging the 50,000 mark - incredibly, equivalent to the town's population at the time . . .' (From Lee & Simpson's Burnley: a complete record, 1991). The club record attendance is 54,755 for a Cup tie in 1924 and the highest League attendance is almost 53,000 in 1947.

Their average (Fourth Division) league gate in 1990-91 was 7,876 against a census population total of 89,478, giving an average attendance of 8.8 per cent. In their First Division heyday, however, these figures were much greater. The average League gate in the 1970-71 season was 16,336 against a population of 95,252, which represents 17 per cent. Assuming a similar sized population at the start of the previous two decades, the 1960-61 average league gate of 23,826 would have been 25 per cent of the town's population. For 1950-51, the 28,296 average attendance represents 29.7 per cent. - Graham Wilkinson, Waterlooville, Hants.

Which touring party was first referred to as the 'British Lions'? Was it a rugby union or a rugby league selection?

During the 1924 rugby union tour of South Africa the newspapers there started referring to them as the Lions, taking their cue from the lions on their ties, as I related in my book The Lions. I was going to call the book The British Lions, until the publisher said: 'For heaven's sake don't call it that or we won't sell a single copy in the Republic of Ireland]'

What is arguably the greatest comeback in sporting history?

Vinny Pazienza, who broke his neck in a car crash and has just knocked Lloyd Honeyghan out in his comeback. - David Nichol Smith, Clitheroe,


What is the fewest number of points conceded in a Wimbledon match?

In her third-round match at Wimbledon against Helen Kelesi this year, Steffi Graf conceded only 11 points in winning 6-0, 6-0. Also, the match lasted just 35 minutes, making it the shortest of the tournament. - Jonathan Brazier, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

Rugby union players have pockets in their shorts. Rugby league players do not. Why?

Traditionally rugby union players were paid in cash on the day and needed a pocket in their shorts to stash their wodge. Rugby league players do not need a pocket as they are contracted employees and the clubs pay their salary into their bank accounts. However, recent moves to open up rugby union mean that the pocket will soon become redundant. - Dr J R Langan, Leeds.

What is the origin of the phrase 'The Real McCoy'?

Norman Selby was born in Indiana on 13 October 1873, but when he started his boxing career in 1891 he changed his name to Charles 'Kid' McCoy as it was thought that to be a success at boxing it was better to be Irish.

McCoy beat the Irishman Tommy Ryan in March 1895 to win the world welterweight championship. He also fought at middle, light-heavy and heavyweight. Another middleweight, Al McCoy, was also fighting at this time, so to distinguish the two, Kid McCoy was billed as The Real McCoy.

Kid McCoy introduced boxing to Africa and many parts of Europe, and also turned his talents to film acting. He was married nine times. After his eighth marriage he proposed to his mistress, who turned him down. He promptly shot her dead. He spent seven years in prison for manslaughter, pleading insanity due to injuries caused by boxing. Soon after his release in 1932 he married for the final time, and in April 1940 he committed suicide.

However, the expression The Real McCoy was used before all this took place. It is a Scottish expression connected with whisky. In this context it is The Real McKay and describes the best whisky, which was exported to America, where McKay became McCoy. - John Warren, Craven Arms, Shropshire.

In fact, the answer has nothing to do with sport. Elijah McCoy was a black American inventor in the 19th century, the son of fugitive slaves. He arrived at a device called the drip-cup, which enabled machines to be oiled without stopping them, thus saving time and money. He also invented 23 new lubricants. His fame spread so far that people would ask of oil in machines: 'Is it the real McCoy?' - Maria Wilson, Kilburn, London.

What is the highest first-innings score a team has achieved without any player making a century?

In November 1976 (the second Test v New Zealand), India's first innings accrued 524 runs. The highest individual score was 70 and each of the batsmen reached double figures. The Indians declared with nine wickets down.

When Pakistan played England in the second Test in March 1973, the Pakistanis' first-innings total was 445 for 6 declared; England's 386 all out. This made 831 runs in all, but there were no centuries among them although Majid Khan, Mushtaq Mohammad and Dennis Amiss were all dismissed for 99. - David Balcombe, Northwood, Middlesex.


Which Premier or Football League team can boast the highest number of locally born players ever to have represented the club in any one league match? - Keith Markland, Ilkley, West Yorkshire.

How is Formula One motor racing financed? How can the small teams such as Jordan or Minardi remain viable when they rarely finish a race? - Michael Hunt, Colchester, Essex.

Who was the first non-white to umpire in first-class cricket. Are there any non-whites officiating in domestic first- class football, rugby union or rugby league? - Kevin Maguire, Batley.

Are any of the top equestrian riders or jockeys known to be anti-hunting? - Gail Saunders, Middlesbrough.

Winning the All-England Tennis Championships at Wimbledon or the Open golf championship is reputedly the highest accolade that can be won in each of the sports. For how many other sports can the British Isles claim to offer the most sought-after prize (in esteem rather than monetary value)? - Denzil Yellowley, Ryton, Tyne and Wear.

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