Q & A: Sportsmen who saw action

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Q. Is anything known about the First World War Sportsman's Battalion of the Fusiliers? Were the soldiers volunteers, and what made them eligible? How long did the institution survive?

A. Two battalions of the Royal Fusiliers, the 23rd and 24th (known as the 1st and 2nd Sportsmen) were raised in 1914 by Mrs E Cunliffe-Owen. The Sportsmen were just that, sportsmen, but also included big-game hunters, trappers, country gents and probably the odd poacher or two. They formed part of the 33rd Division, together with the 17th Bn Middlesex Regt (1st Football) and first saw action on the Somme. They served throughout the war, eventually disbanding in 1919. The division suffered more than 37,000 casualties. - Peter McLeod, Southampton

Q. Which League football team has had the most promotions/demotions: in the past 10 years; in the past 20 years; since the Second World War?

A. Four clubs share the record over the past 20 years: Cardiff City, Sheffield United, Southend United and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Southend have achieved five promotions and four demotions, the other three clubs have been promoted four times and demoted five. The Blades and the Wolves have played in all four divisions in that time. Since the Second World War both Grimsby Town and Sheffield United have changed division 15 times, with eight demotions and seven promotions.

Dave Bassett's record as a manager is also worthy of comment. Since January 1981, when he started his managerial career, he has seen Wimbledon through four promotions and one demotion, and Sheffield United through two promotions and two demotions - a total of nine changes of division. - Andrew Kirkham, Knaresborough

Q. Am I right in thinking that there was a one-armed German international footballer in the early Fifties? Or have I been reading too much of Roy of the Rovers?

A. Spike Denton of London stated that he recalled watching a one-armed Ronnie Goodlass at Fulham (Q&A, 22 May). I'm afraid that he is exaggerating somewhat. Ronnie had what is probably best described as a withered arm. He always played with his shirt sleeves down to his wrists. He appeared on eight occasions for England Schoolboys before joining his boyhood heroes, Everton. He played in all three League Cup final matches v Aston Villa in 1977, and I saw both his goals for the club, the first direct from a corner at Sunderland, the other a 40-yard lob at West Ham. He left the Merseysiders for the Dutch club Breda in October 1977 and later played for Den Haag, Fulham, Scunthorpe, Hong Kong, Tranmere and Barrow. - Patrick J McGrath, Belfast

A. I draw attention to the one-armed Kerry Gibson, an Australian rugby league player. He played in the Sydney second grade for Wests and also in Brisbane before coming to Europe in the early Eighties and trying rugby league in France. He came to Springfield Borough (formerly Blackpool Borough) in 1987-88, then went to Runcorn (now Highfield). - Kevin Maguire, Batley

Q. How and when did the practice of 'shielding the ball' out of play develop in football? What do the laws of the game say about this practice and what would happen if a player attempted to 'shield the ball' in open play?

A. Shielding the ball out of play is permitted under a law which states that a player doing so is playing the ball, or at least is within playing distance of it. Referees have by force of custom stretched the law to permit illegal obstruction (any interposing of the body to allow the ball to run out of play, almost irrespective of the distance between the defender and the ball). - Lawrence Sutton, Orpington, Kent

Q. The last plastic pitch, at Deepdale, is finally to be removed. Of the current League clubs, I can only think of Barnet who have never played on plastic. Did any other club never play on one of the artificial surfaces?

A. On 7 January 1982, as their own pitch was frozen, Barnet, then in the Alliance Premier League, arranged to borrow QPR's ground in order to complete their fixture and drew 0-0 with AP Leamington before a crowd of 885 - Paul Spencer-Thompson


Q. Last Sunday I lost my wicket due to being caught after the ball had struck both my bat and the non-striker's bat. Has it ever happened in a first-class game? - Jeff Weston, Towcester

Q. Which football club was the first to have a fanzine attached to it? - Alan Metcalfe, Crewe

Q. Middlesex recently played a Hampshire side which contained five ex- Middlesex players - Cowans, James, Maru and Tursfield. Is this a record? - Jeremy Freeman, Wembley

Q. I was told that the first football club to have a shirt sponsor was Kettering Town. With Ketting Tyres on their shirts, they were in breach of FA rules. Is this true, and if so, what is the full story ? - S Thompson, Liverpool

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