Q & A: referee's deflating times . . . . . and the art of the gaffer

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In football, cricket and rugby union and rugby league, which ground is the highest above sea level and lowest at ground level? Are performances affected by these locations?

The North Dartmoor village of Belstone has just acquired a new cricket ground for the coming season which is some 990 feet above sea level. How our performances will be affected by this altitude remains to be seen - although we shall keep it in mind as a most original excuse] Lapses in concentration are more likely to be caused by the spectacular views. - Richard Penny, vice- captain, Belstone CC, Devon.

The highest Football League ground is The Hawthorns, home of West Bromwich Albion, which stands at 541ft above sea level. The lowest belongs to Norwich City, whose Carrow Road ground is a mere 6ft 6in above sea level. Even if the performance of the players isn't affected by altitude then the performance of the playing equipment is. I am a qualified referee and once a colleague of mine, David Blood, was fourth official at a Port Vale match. When the referee was presented with the match ball before kick-off he checked its pressure and found it conformed to the regulation 8.5-15.6 psi. David then reminded the ref that the law also stated it should be between those pressures at sea level and as Vale Park is one of the highest grounds in the country then this should be taken into account. The referee's reply was something along the lines of 'rubbish'.

After about five minutes one of the players complained of the ball being flat. Sure enough it had deflated and was replaced, proving David right. - Robin M Griffiths, Burton-on-Trent.

Last year (4 October) Q & A stated that Derrick Rostagno, the tennis player, had once been refused permission to smoke during a changeover. I have also heard of another player who was fined for smoking on court. How many tennis players smoke?

Derrick Rostagno may have tried to have a puff during a changeover just for the hell of it but the real smokers on the tennis circuit over the past two decades have been Ion Tiriac, Adriano Panatta and John Alexander. I can personally vouch for this as a large percentage of them were my Rothmans, nicked on the pretext that they weren't real smokers]

Inquiries as to who smokes on the ATP Tour today met with much head- shaking in the locker room at the Monte Carlo Open. Only one name surfaced as a regular smoker - Karsten Braasch, a 26-year-old German left- hander whose hobbies are listed as cards and billiards, which sort of tells its own story. As Braasch's ranking has slipped about 50 places to 149 this year, no one is rushing to emulate his habit. - Richard Evans, Monte Carlo.

Every football team seems to have local rivals their fans love to hate. Do rivalries vary in intensity across the country? And are most rivalries mutual? Newport used to have Cardiff as their main rivals, while Cardiff fans considered Swansea their most loathed opposition. Are there cases where a team has supplanted another as a third team's main rival?

In south London, we Crystal Palace supporters are used to being the No 1 folk devils for the impoverished folk of SE7 and SW19 (Charlton and Wimbledon respectively), who have both had to suffer the indignity of paying rent to Uncle Ron Noades. To us, both are nothing more than 'squatters'.

In Only A Game? Eamonn Dunphy revealed the deep-seated hatred that Millwall have for the Eagles; Danny Baker regularly endorses such feelings on air. We reserve our vitriol and abuse for the followers of Brighton and Hove Albion, who, despite being over 50 miles away, spent years following us up and down between the divisions.

In recognition of the depth to which the 'Seaweeds' have sunk, the Palace fanzine Eagle Eye recently ran a campaign to find new rivals, the eventual winners being Chelsea. While this makes some sense (at least we play them twice a year), the Selhurst diehards show no sign of dropping the chants of 'We hate Brighton', whether at Highbury, Anfield or Wembley. - Toby Kinder, London SW9.

Perhaps the most infamous example of changing rivals is that of Arsenal (then Woolwich Arsenal) who moved to Highbury in 1913, as it was considered that enthusiasm for football in north London was such that the area could amply support another team. Thus poor Clapton Orient were replaced as Tottenham Hotspur's 'true' rivals. - Ade Macrow, London N17.

In the north-west over the last 15-20 years a discernible trend has been apparent whereby Liverpool's greatest rivalry, traditionally with Everton, has been eclipsed by a much more bitter type of conflict with the darlings of the press from Old Trafford. - Pete Edwards, Liverpool L12.

If Norwich City were to win the league, which now looks unlikely, would their 7-1 defeat to Blackburn Rovers earlier in the season be the heaviest defeat suffered by a team that went on to win the championship?

Newcastle United won the 1908-09 First Division title by seven points despite a 9-1 home defeat on 5 December 1908 to my team, Sunderland, who eventually finished third. The victory, achieved thanks to eight goals in the space of 28 second-half minutes, remains the First Division's record away win, albeit jointly with Wolves' win by the same score at Cardiff in 1955. - David Bohill, Washington, Co Durham.

In 1938-39 Wolverhampton Wanderers defeated Everton 7-0 at Molineux. The Wolves almost repeated this defeat of the eventual champions in 1959-60 by trouncing Burnley 6-1. - K Furber, Warrington.

Why are almost all football managers former players? Surely playing ability has little effect on one's understanding of the dynamics of a team. Wouldn't a sports scientist or psychologist be better equipped?

I am undertaking a dissertation about Football Management as part of my Management degree. I have interviewed various managers in the north of England. From this, I have found that one of the most important requirements of a football manager is knowledge of football. This knowledge not only refers to tactical and technical aspects often learnt from playing the game, but also such things as knowing how to spot potential and knowing people involved in football. Having some ability as a player helps to gain the respect that a manager requires.

It is therefore unlikely that anyone outside of football could be a manager. Some managers do use psychologists to help players mentally prepare for matches. Obviously a sports scientist or a psychologist could deal with certain aspects of the manager's job, but they could not have the football knowledge that all managers require. - Anthony Stern, Preston.

Wisden's Book of Cricketers' Lives carries obituaries for most of the cricketers killed in the Great War. Is there any comparable record for footballers and rugby players?

The sports writer E H D Sewell produced The Rugby Football Internationalists' Roll of Honour in 1919, a labour of love with biographies of 76 players who fell in the Great War, with photos of nearly all of them. As well as the home countries he included those from New Zealand and South Africa.

In football, despite the formation of footballers' battalions (the 16th Royal Scots, the 17th Middlesex) the only special publication after the war seems to have been John McCartney's The Hearts and the Great War, dedicated to the Edinburgh club's players who signed up en masse in 1914; seven were killed, 11 others wounded or gassed.

Biographies of most prominent footballers can be found in the recent Who's Who books on England, Scotland and Wales internationalists. - Andy Mitchell, Edinburgh.

Has an Oxbridge football Blue ever played professionally?

Keith Sanderson, a member of the famous 1960s QPR team, was a Cambridge Blue. He turned professional with Plymouth Argyle in August 1964, moving to Rangers in July 1965. He was described in the League Cup final programme of 1967 as 'the schemer-in- chief of the side'. He must have been some player, as a certain Rodney Marsh played that day. - A J Wait, Bristol.


What is the highest position achieved by a football team who scored fewer goals than they conceded? - Neil Duncan, Uxbridge, Middlesex.

Why don't football supporters throw toilet rolls any more? - Kate Bright, London SW8.

In an average football match, how many miles are run by the players on both teams? - Natalie Heath, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Pete Sampras recently became No 1 in the world tennis rankings without being the holder of any of the four Grand Slam events. Is this unique since the computerised rankings began, and has anything comparable happened in golf? - J Thompson, Chester.

When was the first instance of a streaker at a sporting event? - Michael Hunt, Colchester.

Are there any other sports other than motor racing in which the victory ceremony includes the ritual spraying of champagne? Who started this practice? - Michael Matson, Northallerton.

While watching the Italian football on Channel 4 this season, I have noticed that the fans often sing 'Na na hey hey kiss him goodbye' by Bananarama. Can any readers explain why? - Sean Steele, Purley, Surrey.

If you know the answers to any of these questions, or have a sporting question of your own you would like answered, write to:

Q & A

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(Photograph omitted)