Q & A: Hoops, stripes, heraldry . . . and the O'Grady effect

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In the Press and Journal Highland League the match between Buckie Thistle and Inverness Clachnacuddin was abandoned due to 'high winds'. Is this occurrence as rare as I suspect? What are the stipulations for calling the game off?

In February 1991 the FA Cup second- round tie between Whitley Bay and Barrow was called off due to high winds threatening to bring down a tree upon the Barrow end. I recall a degree of mockery in one London-based paper (not, I'm sure, the IoS) although the winds were so strong that all the For Sale boards on our street remained at 90 degrees to their usual position all day. - Andy Clark, Northumberland.

Do Inverness Clachnacuddin hold the record for the longest club name in the British Isles?

I rather think that supporters of Wolverhampton Wanderers would contest any claim by Inverness Clachnacuddin to have the longest club name in British football. The two names draw with 22 letters each, but Wolves probably deserve the title on seniority and alliterative quality.

There are many clubs in the non-League pyramid with longer names. Excluding those with expansive elements like Miners Welfare or Social Club, and eliminating as cheats those who have tacked on a sponsor's name, there are clubs like: East Cowes Victoria Athletic (25); Bemerton Heath Harlequins (23); Feltham & Hounslow Borough (23 including the &); Narborough & Littlethorpe (23 likewise); St George Easton-in-Gordano (25 with the hyphens); Longwell Green Abbotonians (24). The police get into the act with: Metropolitan Police Bushey (24); Leicestershire Constabulary (26). If we do include the Miners Welfare teams, the overall prize looks likely to go to Ollerton & Bevercotes Miners Welfare (32). However the dark horse in the field has to be a Northern Alliance Second Division club, Monkseaton KOSA Robin Hood. This adds up to 23 letters as it stands. How long is the name when KOSA is fully expanded? - J M Lindsay, Cheshunt, Herts.

Has he never heard of Irthlingborough Diamonds? - Andy Clark, Alnwick, Northumberland.

Several professional football teams wear vertically striped shirts but only two (QPR and Reading) regularly wear hoops. Conversely, many rugby teams (union and league) wear hooped shirts but none wear stripes. Why the difference?

When association football started in 1863 most rugby and football clubs wore vertical stripes on their shirts. Gradually rugby clubs changed to hoops to differentiate between the two sports leaving stripes for soccer clubs. Clubs like QPR and Celtic chose hoops and remain faithful to them to this day. - Clive Robert Handel, Exeter.

The different stripe orientations can perhaps be traced back to heraldic symbolism. The fess, or horizontal band, was the most common ordinary (ie basic geometrical figure) in medieval coats of arms. In contrast, the pale, or vertical band, was relatively rare: it had a pejorative significance in medieval literature, where it often suggested the bearer's bastardy. Could the student of symbolism see the frequency of the pale on football shirts as an allusion to Association Football's 'illegitimate' birth out of rugby, after the 19th-century split over hacking?

Heraldry might also explain why the V-shaped band ('chevron reversed') seems to be worn almost exclusively by rugby league teams. In medieval literature, a chevron on a character's shield tends to imply a negative judgement, since oblique lines suggested a deviation from the proper norm, and sharp points were regarded as dangerous. Rugby league teams could therefore be seen as proclaiming their transgression of the norms of the Rugby Football Union, and/or the greater physical dangers facing those playing the professional code. - Adrian Armstrong, Paris.

Hooped shirts exaggerate a player's breadth while the optical illusion created by vertically striped shirts is to enhance height. Since a rugby player is more likely to intimidate the opposition by an impression of impassable breadth, and footballers could be said to rely more on height and agility, the difference would seem explicable. - Michael Haines, Chislehurst, Kent.

I recall reading once that in an early England v Scotland football fixture the entire Scotland team comprised Queen's Park players. Can anyone provide confirmation of this?

The game was played on 30 November 1892 at a cricket ground in Partick and the result was 0-0. The referee and one linesman were Queen's Park officials. In March the following year the game was played at The Oval but Scotland had only seven Queen's Park players in the team. Scotland lost. In 1874 the club again had only seven players in the Scottish team, plus referee and linesman. Scotland won. - James S Sutherland, Edinburgh.

Mike O'Grady (Huddersfield and Leeds) played twice for England and scored three goals. Is he the only international to score more goals than he earned caps?

No. In the last century when international football was in its infancy there were a number of players who scored more goals than they earned caps. In fact there were several who scored hat- tricks on their only appearance for England. This could probably be attributed to the poor quality of the opposition. Two prolific league scorers who were also England internationals were George Camsell (9 caps,18 goals) and Dixie Dean (16 caps, 18 goals) whilst at the turn of the century Steve Bloomer scored 28 goals in 23 appearances.

In more recent times Fred Pickering scored five goals in three appearances in the 1960s. The West German international Gerd Muller, however, had the remarkable record of 68 goals in 62 appearances between 1966 and 1974. - David Toole, Liverpool L14.

Wales have three in that category: John Roach (Oswestry, one cap in 1885, two goals); Herbert Sisson (Wrexham Olympic, three caps in 1885 and 1886, four goals); Richard Henry Jarrett (Ruthin, two caps in 1889 and 1890, three goals). - Kevin Williams, Reading.

Jack Yates of Burnley made his one international appearance for England in 1889, v Ireland, and scored a hat- trick. - David A Gill, Burnley.

What happens if a player hits the ball so hard that the crossbar collapses in two?

I remember a report on a game involving Plymouth Argyle at Chester City in September 1981 in the League Cup. With less than a quarter of an hour of the game remaining, and evenly balanced at two goals each, Chester goalkeeper Grenville Millington, in attempting to stop a shot from Argyle striker David Kemp, collided heavily with the goalpost. In a split second the posts collapsed. Valiant attempts to repair the damage were to no avail and the referee had no option but to abandon the match. - P Williams, Truro.

In 1975, I was the goalkeeper for Cheadle Hulme Football Club in a Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur League fixture. An opponent hit the ball extremely hard from a distance of some 25 yards. The ball rebounded into play, and a few moments later I heard the crossbar break behind me. This was followed by both posts collapsing.

The referee commissioned repairs, which were not possible to effect. Both captains were called to the referee's room, and as our game was the only one on a ground in Oldham which had some 12 other pitches on it, it was suggested that, with the agreement of both captains, the game be moved across to continue on the next pitch. The Oldham captain agreed, but our captain understandably refused.

The game was 20 minutes old, and we were 4-0 down. The game was replayed the following week, and finished 1-1. I was at fault for three of the four goals, and saved a penalty in the replayed game. - Mike Bell, Ashford, Kent.


What is Malcolm Macdonald doing in Milan? - Aidan Robertson, Wadham College, Oxford.

Why is there a different set of records for indoor and outdoor athletics? And why is the indoor version accorded less importance? - Michael McMaugham, Drumnadrochit, Scotland.

Why do modern footballers persistently spit on the pitch? Is this a new development, or are close-ups making us aware of something which has always gone on? - Geoff Horton, London WC1.

Have there ever been scientific tests to estimate the degree of the effect of differences in weight carried by the horses on the result of a race? - Andrew Beckett, St Albans.

What have at least two players in the present Scotland rugby union team, Tony Stanger and Paul Burnell, taken to wearing thin strips of black tape around the top and bottom of one thigh, connected by a single vertical strip of tape? - Dr Mark E Hill, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.

Has a passing bird ever been hit by a conversion or drop goal attempt in rugby union, preventing the ball passing between the posts and depriving the kicker of his score? Come to that, have any other creatures had a bearing on the result of any big sporting occasion? - Oliver Pearce, London SW13.

Is there a nation in the world that does not compete in international sport? - Kevin Maguire, Batley.

Have any Britons ever succeeded in the National Hockey League in the US and Canada? - Jack Tranter, Whitley Bay.

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