Q & A: The greatest comeback . . . the shortest substitution

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Why do Leicester and Bristol rugby clubs wear letters and not numbers on their shirts?

Both teams were among the first to identify players via the backs of their shirts, probably during the 1920s, and they happened to choose letters. Eventually most clubs, unfettered by the tradition of being original 'men of letters', switched to numbers, but Bristol and Leicester continued alphabetically. Bristol's full-back wears 'A' and the series goes through the side to the open-side flanker's 'O' whereas Leicester's players are lettered the other way round. However, the latter is a lot closer to conventional numbering with, for instance, the full-back wearing the 15th letter, 'O'. - Ben Phillips, London N2.

What is the greatest losing margin from which a team has recovered to win a football league match?

This must surely be when Charlton Athletic beat Huddersfield Town 7-6 on 21 December, 1957. Charlton, handicapped by being down to 10 men since the 15th minute through injury (no substitutes in those days]) were losing 5-1 with 28 minutes to go. They then scored five times to lead 6-5 with nine minutes remaining. Huddersfield levelled the scores to 6-6 with four minutes to go only for Charlton to grab the winner with two minutes remaining.

The hero of this amazing comeback was Charlton's Johnny Summers, who scored five times. And that wearing new boots too] As well as being one of the most amazing comebacks in football league history it makes Huddersfield the only league club ever to score six goals and finish on the losing side. Johnny Summers also scored five goals in another Second Division game against Portsmouth in October 1960 but sadly died two years later when only 33. - David Bell (Huddersfield Town supporter).

Can this be the Second Division fixture played on Saturday 21 December 1957, when Charlton Athletic were trailing 1-5 at home to Huddersfield Town well into the second half but eventually ran out 7-6 winners even though they were playing with only 10 men. I remember the occasion well as it was the day I got married.

Another memorable recovery came about on 30 November 1946 in the Second when Luton Town, playing at home, were 3-0 down at half-time but came back to defeat Newcastle United 4-3. - Clive Moyse, Dunstable.

I believe that the many 'Spion Kops' to be found on English football grounds take their name from a battle in the Boer War. But can anyone give me more details about the origin of the term?

The Spion Kop at Anfield was constructed during the summer of 1906 as a reward to the club's fans following Liverpool's second championship victory that year. It was a large unroofed terracing at one end of the ground which the Athletic News described as 'a high banking stretching ever upwards' and by far the largest of its kind in the country. It was Ernest Jones, then sports editor of the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo, who suggested the name Spion Kop. He reckoned it an appropriate memorial to the many soldiers who had died in the Battle of Spion Kop during the South African Boer War.

Spion Kop was a small hill, some 1,470ft in height, not far from Ladysmith in Natal and believed by the British military to be of major strategic importance. It wasn't, but on the night of 23 January 1900 the Lancashire Fusiliers stormed the hill only to suffer heavy losses in one of the most mismanaged battles of the entire Boer War.

What the British military had not realised was that Spion Kop was not the summit. Beyond it lay the higher ridges of Aloe Knoll and Twin Peaks where the Boers were dug in. As the dawn mist cleared they realised their catastrophic mistake. During the fighting that followed the next day some 383 British soldiers died, many of them from Liverpool, and more than 1,000 were seriously wounded. The Boers suffered more than 600 losses and the British were eventually forced to withdraw.

The name was quickly taken up by other football clubs as they built similar high bankings at their grounds. Interestingly, the South Africans spell it variously Spioenkop, Spionekop and Spioen-Kop while pronouncing it 'Spee-on Kop'. - Stephen Kelly, Manchester M21.

Why is a scoring touchdown in rugby called a try? - Wallace Reyburn, London NW3.

In the early days of rugby no points were awarded for a touchdown. To gain points the scoring side were allowed to 'try' and convert by kicking the ball over a crossbar. This was called a goal and to this day a converted try in rugby union is still referred to as a 'goal'. - Michael Elkin, Halifax.

Legend has it that a former crcket writer with a well-known daily paper was asked to report on a match at the famous Rugby School. On arrival at the school the only match he could find in progress was a football match. With little else to do, and unfamiliar with the game, he sat and watched the match, gradually picking up the rules as it went along.

At one point a fellow called William Webb Ellis picked up the ball in his hands and ran almost the full length of the pitch avoiding the desperate tackles by the other players and dived full length into the goal. A bit perplexed at not fully understanding all the rules, the cricket writer asked a fellow observer if that was a goal. 'No,' he replied, 'but it was a bloody good try.' - Andrew Leslie, Minehead.

Has there ever been a professional footballer who played in glasses?

Laurence Main (Q&A, 18 October) gave W Sinclair as the name of the Glentoran player who wore glasses. In fact the player was Eric Ross. A skilful ball player, he was later transferred to Newcastle and ended his career with Northampton Town. Surprisingly, he was selected to mark, or not mark as it turned out, George Best in the FA Cup tie in which Best scored six of the eight Manchester United goals against Northampton.

The Sinclair mentioned was a contemporary, a former Kilmarnock and Chelsea player who scored the last- minute equaliser for Glentoran against Glasgow Rangers in the Cup Winners' Cup the year before the Benfica tie mentioned in Mr Main's letter. - H McCarthy, Newtownabbey.

Probably the most famous player to have played wearing glasses was the Belgian footballer, Jef Jurion. Born on 24 April 1937, he was a forward with Anderlecht who played in specially made glasses - unbreakable lenses, soft frames and specially designed rubber straps to keep them on.

He was capped 64 times by Belgium and was Belgium's Footballer of the Year in 1957 and 1962. Though not a regular goalscorer, he did score the winning goal for Anderlecht against Real Madrid in a European Cup tie in September 1962. Known by the fans as 'Mr Europe', he captained Anderlecht during the Sixties when they won five consecutive league titles. In 1968 he moved to La Gantoise and I believe he ended his playing career as player-manager of Lokeren. - David P Toole, Liverpool 14.

What is the shortest recorded time that a footballer has appeared in a match either as a substitute or through being substituted?

In September 1972, Stoke City were playing away at FC Kaiserslautern in the UEFA Cup first round second leg, having won the home leg 3-1. Play was halted for a free-kick, enabling Stoke to bring on John Ritchie as a substitute. Before play was restarted, Ritchie became involved in an altercation with a German player and was immediately sent off. Stoke lost the match 4-0. - John Godwin, Newcastle, Staffs.

Ian Hendry of Hibernian was substituted within 20 seconds of his debut against Berwick Rangers in January 1981 following a broken leg. He did not play for the club again. - John Weir, Edinburgh.

Bernard Boissier played a total of only two minutes' football for France, coming on as substitute against Portugal in 1975. But even briefer was the appearance of the goalkeeper Jens Adler, who was sent on in the last minute of East Germany's last match, against Belgium in 1990. He hasn't played for the reunified German team and therefore has an international career of less than 60 seconds. He kept a clean sheet against the Belgians. - Chris Freddi, London W12.

In a match a few years ago at Molineux between Wolves and Watford, John McAlle, the Wolves substitute, came on in the second half and within a minute broke his leg in a tackle the first time he touched the ball. The time taken to carry him off must have exceeded the time he had previously spent on the pitch. - Neville Thorneycroft, Chesham, Bucks.

14 seconds, Chris Oakley, Woodford Town Reserves v Basildon Town Reserves, Greater London League Reserve Division, Saturday 31 August 1968. - C Oakley, London NW3.

ANSWERS PLEASE

Has a first-class cricketer ever been sent off? - Richard Hill, Worcester.

Why do we have ball-boys and ball-girls at Wimbledon, but ball-men and ball- women at other tennis tournaments such as the US Open? - Murray White, Hong Kong.

Can anyone tell me what happened to Third Lanark? And was there ever a First and Second Lanark? - Anthony Young, Havant.

Why are wheelchair athletes not allowed to use chain drives? It would allow them to sit much lower (which is safer) and go much faster. Is it because the authorities do not want them to go any faster? - Roy Gardiner, Buckhurst Hill, Essex.

What is the first instance of a boxing corner 'throwing in the towel'? Does the fighter and/or referee have to act on the corner's wishes? - M Ashburn, Edinburgh.

A footballer has a Des Walker-type haircut with a concavity. The goalkeeper places the ball in the hollow, the player runs the length of the field with the ball on his head and crosses the opponents' goal-line. Is it a goal? - Tom Stone, Coventry.

Can anyone enlighten me as to why David Gower was left out of this winter's touring party to India? - James Williams, Oxford.

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