Q & A: Openers with bat and ball . . . and a legend remembers

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The Independent Online
If points were awarded to each club depending on final league position (eg one point for champions, two points for runners-up, etc, down to 92), and the totals obtained for each club since the war, and averaged over the number of seasons each club has competed in the Football League, which teams would now represent the Premier League? Would my club, Sheffield Wednesday, finish in a higher position than our rivals across the city?

The list of top teams would look like this:

1 Man Utd (average final position 6.50); 2 Arsenal (6.98); 3 Liverpool (8.15); 4 Tottenham (10.11); 5 Everton (10.59); 6 Man City (14.67); 7 Chelsea (15.24); 8 Aston Villa (16.57); 9 West Brom (17.07); 10 Newcastle (17.83); 11 Leeds (17.85); 12 Wolves (17.98); 13 Nottingham Forest (18.13); 14 West Ham (19.74); 15 Leicester (21.63); 16 Sunderland (22.17); 17 Stoke (22.48); 18 Sheff Wed (23.89); 19= Birmingham, Derby (24.24); 21 Southampton (24.52); 22= Middlesbrough, Ipswich (25.70); 24 Sheff Utd (26.20).

Computer databases of English League, League Cup and FA Cup results are available direct from me or from the Association of Football Statisticians. The Scottish League is in preparation. - Tony Brown, 10 Raeburn Drive, Beeston, Nottingham NG9 6LF.

In view of Prabhakar's role in the Test series just passed, how many other Test players have opened the bowling and batting for their country, regularly or otherwise?

Prabhakar is the 38th player and the seventh Indian to open the first innings' batting and bowling in the same Test. (Those who have opened only in the second innings are excluded.) The feat has been performed on 89 occasions, with Prabhakar now in third place with seven instances. Ahead of him are Mudassar Nazar of Pakistan with nine and M L Jaisimha of India with 12.

Many instances in India have resulted from 'proper' batsmen only bowling first to help remove the shine from the ball before the spinners took over (eg, Gavaskar four times, twice against England). Indeed very few of the 38 players were genuine opening bowlers, the list including batsmen such as Trumper, Hobbs and Hammond.

One of the few to have had genuine ability in both roles was Trevor Bailey. He opened the batting 14 times and the bowling 26 times in his 61 Tests, but only three times did both. - David Kendix, Watford.

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

C C Richmond's recollection (7 March) is admirable except that it was an FA Cup match (1969-70) against Luton Town (not Orient or Fulham), for whom I was centre-forward at the time.

The pitch was extremely icy when I lobbed Mike Keen's through-ball over the advancing goalkeeper. Due to the conditions the hapless John Winfield, running diagonally into his goalmouth behind his keeper from the left-back position, was unable to slow his pace or change direction to clear the ball, and he rushed into the back of the net snapping the keeper's right-hand post at the base. His weight (which was substantial) caused the post to fall backwards, thus, the bar was at a diagonal of nil height at one end, and 8ft at the other. Poor John was completely ensnared by net and woodwork.

The ball bounced a foot over the bar somewhat left of centre, as I viewed it, where the bar was about 3ft 6in off the ground and about five feet behind the goal-line. My Luton team-mates congratulated me on scoring the first of the game. The referee, somewhat perplexed, ordered us to the dressing rooms whilst repairs were carried out. We remained there for 25 minutes.

The Luton manager, Alec Stock, went to ask the referee about his decision, only to find him and his two linesmen scrabbling through FA rule books. Once the repairs were complete the referee recalled us to the pitch and the Luton team lined up for a Nottingham Forest kick-off. The referee, however, walked to the Forest penalty area and placed the ball on the six-yard line and ordered a goal-kick be taken, much to the disagreement of Luton players and supporters. The match ended in a 1-1 draw and, though I scored a hat-trick in the replay, Forest won an exciting match 4-3.

All this raises further questions: Was the referee correct in his decision? And is this the longest duration of a referee's decision taken during a match? - Malcolm Macdonald, Milan, Italy.

We are all familiar with the 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and 5-3-2 tactical formations in football. But has there been anything slightly more radical, like a tight 7-2-1 (or an Arsenal, for short) or a more suicidal 1-1-8 (Arsenal on a bad day) in the professional game?

In the 1993 Coca-Cola Cup quarter- final replay, Sheffield Wednesday v Ipswich at Hillsborough, Ipswich started with a cautious 4-4-2 formation. However, every time Wednesday had possession, Ipswich reverted to 8-1-1. Needless to say, Ipswich were beaten, as any team playing with a negative flat back eight deserves to be. - Steve Carter, Chesterfield.

Which footballer holds the record for career own goals?

Your correspondent wonders if Noel Blake's own goal from his own team's kick-off is a unique case of a team gaining a goal without touching the ball. I can tell him that Alan Mullery of Fulham scored within 30 seconds of the start of the game at Craven Cottage on 21 January 1961.

Unfortunately, he scored for Sheffield Wednesday, who had yet to touch the ball in the match, let alone in the build-up to the goal. My reference book, published in 1981, claims this as unique in British football, but Blake's effort came later. - Tom Bancroft,


The answer is of course Baldy Pevsner, the intrepid half-back of Neasden FC, whose exploits have been regularly reported in Private Eye for 30 years. He has scored at least one own goal in every match Neasden have played. - Peter Croggon, London SW16.

Who were the saints Mirren and Johnstone, and why have they never blessed Paisley and Perth with good football teams?

I cannot let Richard Kemp get away with his fanciful story (28 February) that the Saint of St Johnstone is St John of Beverley. The patron saint of Perth is St John the Baptist. He was the patron saint long before Edward I got himself to Perth, and the parish church dedicated to that saint was built many years before the time of Edward I. In fact the said king attended services in the church on the feast day of St John the Baptist on 24 June 1296. Even before the arrival of Edward, Perth was known as St Johnstoun.

Incidentally, none of the books I have that cover St John of Beverley mention Edward I but do mention that Henry V called on St John of Beverley together with St John of Bridlington at the battle of Agincourt. As I spent my formative years in Perth and watched St Johnstone play I think that my version is rather less fanciful than Mr Kemp's. - Alan L Forsyth, Twickenham.

What is the highest number of players from one First Division club to play in an England team?

For a World Cup qualifier between Wales and Iceland on 14 October 1981, the Welsh squad of 16 contained seven players from the same club, Swansea City. Of the seven, six were picked for the starting line-up with two of them scoring. Sadly, the game ended 2-2 after a floodlight failure held the game up for 45 minutes; it also ended any realistic chance, again, of Wales reaching the finals. - Kevin Williams, Reading.


I have just heard that three more songs about Newcastle United have been released. Which team, football or otherwise, has had the most songs written about it? - Andrew Lawson, Newcastle.

How does the R & A decide which golf course should stage the Open Championship? Why can't The Belfry, for example, be chosen? - Winston Brown, Birmingham.

After the Grand National course at Aintree, which National Hunt course has the highest and most daunting fences? - Winston Brown, Birmingham.

Will the winners of the First Division this year receive the old Football League trophy now held by Leeds, or will this trophy be passed to the winners of the FA Premier League? - Miss Alex Lawson, Newcastle upon Tyne.

As a boy, attending a boxing promotion in Bournemouth in 1945, I saw a boxer suffer from 'cauliflower ear', a term then in common use. His ear ballooned to an alarming size, and after a further blow on the ear, the referee stopped the fight. I have never subsequently seen or heard of such a phenomenon. Has it disappeared, simply become a rarity, or was it less common in my schooldays than I had thought? - Clive Brasnett, Maidenhead.

What is the greatest number of left- footed players to appear in an England football team (or Scotland, Wales, etc)? And what is the greatest number of left- handers to appear in an England cricket team? - Joe and Ray Pawson, Leeds.