Q & A: Secrets of the Eton bore game

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Q. Is the Eton Wall Game worth playing? If so, how many clubs play it? What unusual set of circumstances last made it possible for a goal to be scored?

A. I played for the Eton Collegers (scholars) against the Oppidans (rest of school) in the annual St Andrew's Day game in 1973 and 1974 and I fortunately have never played since. The game is played on a very narrow pitch (about five yards wide) with a large heavy ball and is like a continuous rugby scrum with a wall on one side and an open touch line on the other. The idea is to push the opposing 'bully' (scrum) and the ball back towards their 'calx' (end). When you get there you can score 'shies' (points) which are the main means of scoring. If you get a shy you have the opportunity to try for a goal. The reason goals are so rarely scored is that the goals themselves (a door at one end and a tree at the other) are so small and far away. The typical result is a win by a shy or two to nil. As far as I know, no other clubs play it; part of its uniqueness derives from the length, height and curve of the wall itself. As Dr Johnson might have said, it is worth seeing (once), but it is not worth going to see. - Andrew Lane

Q. What is the least number of league appearances made by a footballer before his full international debut?

A. There are numerous cases of Welsh and Irish players making internatonal debuts before or just after their league debut. Recent examples include Brian Carey, Alan Neilson, Brian Law and Steve Morrow. There are also those who take an early international bow before almost immediately disappearing from the league scene. None of Don Nardiello (Wales and Coventry), Maurice Daly (Ireland and Wolves), Eamonn Deacy (Ireland and Aston Villa) or Bertie Lutton (Northern Ireland, Wolves, Brighton and West Ham) played much more than 30 or 40 League matches.

But these fail to compare with John Cowan of Newcastle United who appeared as a substitute for Northern Ireland at Wembley in 1970 after just four league appearances. Not only was that his sole international but it was two years before he made another first-team appearance for Newcastle, a return to prominence that amounted to just five games before he left the club. Save for a few games for Darlington four or five years later his top-class career was over. - Geoff Pike, Newcastle

Q. During the recent Test between England and New Zealand the BBC showed a re-run of a one-day international between two sides from a few years back in which I counted five former, present or future captains (Brearley, Gooch, Gower, Botham and Willis). Has this ever been surpassed?

A. In 1981 eight of England's team against Australia in the fourth and fifth Tests at Edgbaston and Old Trafford had captained or would later captain their country, namely Boycott, Brearley, Gower, Gooch, Gatting, Botham, Emburey and Willis. Eight captains past, present and future represented Pakistan against New Zealand in the first two Tests of the 1976- 77 series at Lahore and Hyderbad namely Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Mushtaq Mohammad, Javed Miandad, Asif Iqbal, Intikhab Alam, Imran Khan and Wasim Bari.

In the Lahore Test match Javed Miandad became the youngest player to score a century on Test debut (this was subsequently eclipsed by Salim Malik). - Robby Wilton, London N3

A. The England football team that played the 1990 World Cup semi-final against West Germany included three past captains: Peter Shilton, Terry Butcher and Peter Beardsley; and three future captains: Gary Lineker, Stuart Pearce and David Platt. (Bryan Robson was customarily returned home early.)

But the soccer score is surpassed by the 1980 England rugby union Grand Slam team captained by Bill Beaumont. This impressive line-up included three former captains: Roger Uttley, Fran Cotton and Tony Neary; four future captains: Steve Smith, John Scott, Peter Wheeler and Paul Dodge; and a future coach: Mike Slemen. - Steve Roome, Willington


Q. I believe that in the early 1970s ITV was responsible for a long throw-in competition which Ian Hutchinson won. If such a competition took place today who would win? - Alan Metcalfe, Crewe

Q. Is it true that Teddy Maybank, the legendary Chelsea, Brighton and Fulham centre-forward was one of the first contestants on Blind Date? - Paul Sim, Pontefract

Q. Am I right in saying that Dayjur's 56.16sec at York on 23 August 1990 is the fastest recorded on a British racecourse over the minimum distance? - P Sullivan, Bootle, Merseyside

Q. Did any Premiership team manage to field a side using squad numbers 1 to 11 last season? - Phoebe Birchington, London N8

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