Q & A: The Magnificent Seven . . . . . and millionaire gringos

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Why have Spot the Ball competitions always used football? Has cricket ever been used?

Spot the Ball competitions nowadays use photographs taken specially for them. They avoid any old goal-area action shot taken from behind the goal. At a football match, a roaming 'toggy' is often seen snatching the odd frame from a place where he should not be. He is 'spotting the ball'. As far as cricket is concerned, camera distance from the wicket is a problem. Another is that few newspapers can afford to keep a 'toggy' at the match over a couple of days just to get what is essentially a bad picture, and I can't imagine freelancers buttering much bread from it. - Ralph Gee, Nottingham NG5.

A Spot the Dog competition has started appearing weekly in the Westmorland Gazette, where the picture has been taken at a sheepdog trial. - Roy Warburton, Oldham.

I recently entered a Spot the Table Tennis Ball competition run, I think, by the Readers' Digest. I didn't win. - Pete Elliott, Washington, Tyne and Wear.

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

Seven. The club was Arsenal, and the occasion was the visit of the World Cup holders, Italy, on 14 November 1934. England hadn't entered the 1934 World Cup, but issued a challenge to the winners. The venue was Highbury and the Arsenal seven were the goalkeeper Frank Moss, full-backs George Male and Eddie Hapgood, left-half Wilf Copping, and forwards Ray Bowden, Ted Drake and Cliff Bastin. Filling out the team were Cliff Britton, Jack Barker, Stanley Matthews and Eric Brook.

The match proved an ill-tempered affair, since referred to as the Battle of Highbury. England won 3-2, with goals scored during a 10-minute spell in the first 15 minutes after the Italian centre- half attempted to play on with a bone broken in his right foot. No substitutes were allowed in 1934, which also accounted for Hapgood playing most of the match with a broken nose.

The highest total of players from one club in recent years was against Switzerland in September 1977, when Ron Greenwood felt that Liverpool's domination of European club football could be used to good effect at national level. Regulars Ray Clemence, Phil Neal, Emlyn Hughes and Ray Kennedy were joined in the team by new cap Terry McDermott, and Ian Callaghan, playing for England for the first time in over a decade. Had Phil Thompson been fit or Kevin Keegan not been transferred during the summer, the Arsenal record may have been equalled or beaten.

I also recall reading once that in an early England-Scotland fixture the entire Scotland team was comprised of Queens Park players. Can anyone provide confirmation of this? - Frank Plowright, Glasgow G31.

Not only did the seven Gunners set a record, but Tom Whittaker, their trainer, was in charge of the side, and George Allison, the manager, did the radio commentary from the stand. - Ken Taylor, Brighton.

Why do professional snooker players wear evening dress?

Table manners. Your fashion editors would not agree that snooker players wear 'evening dress'. They wear bow- ties and waistcoats to keep clothing clear of the balls, while the latter provides pockets for the chalk. Why they can't wear short-sleeved shirts puzzles me, because cuffs present problems. I suspect that the tradition comes from gentlemen's clubs, but I prefer to see it as something other than yet another opportunity for sponsorship space. - Ralph Gee, Nottingham NG5.

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

The game will be held up while repairs are effected. I have not seen the crossbar broken but I did see a post break. This was at the City Ground a few seasons back when John Winfield was Nottingham Forest's No 3. Racing back, he collided with such force that the post snapped and the game halted for repairs. I think it was an FA Cup game against Orient or Fulham. - C C Richmond, Stapleford, Notts.

In the 1920s a New Zealand rugby team toured England and earned the name 'Invincibles'. How did this come about? And, given the distances involved, were tours at that time common? What was the usual duration of a cricket or rugby tour?

The New Zealand rugby union touring side of 1924-25 won all its 30 matches in the British Isles and France. The great full-back George Nepia, who later enjoyed a successful career in English rugby league, played in every match.

In Test matches, the All Blacks beat Ireland 6-0, Wales 19-0, England 17-11 and France 30-6, but did not meet Scotland or play any matches in that country. In the England match at Twickenham, the New Zealand forward Cyril Brownlie, was sent off by the Welsh referee, Arthur Freethy, for kicking an opponent, thus earning the unwanted distinction of being the first player to be dismissed in a rugby union international.

Tours in those days were much longer than today; New Zealand's first match of this tour (v Devon) was on 13 September and their last (v France) on 18 January. They then played two matches in Canada on the way home. Add to this the length of the return sea journey, and it can be seen that a tour in those days could last half a year.

These were the second All Black tourists to Britain, the first visit having been in 1905-06. The next visit took place in 1935-36.

When air travel became the norm for touring sides in the 1960s, shorter itineraries became viable, and Antipodean rugby tourists nowadays usually arrive in September or October and return home in December. - Ian Davis, Buckhurst Hill, Essex.

Have British footballers ever played professionally for South American clubs?

In 1950 Colombian clubs broke away from their national association and thus from Fifa. They offered high wages and signing-on fees, and several British players flew out to South America. The most famous was Neil Franklin, who was the England centre-half. He joined Santa Fe with his Stoke City team-mate George Mountford. Bill Higgins of Everton joined Millionarios of Bogota (as did the great Argentinian Alfredo di Stefano) and another notable player to move to South America was Charlie Mitten of Manchester United. Bobby Flavel, of Hearts, also moved to Colombia. Several other players went to see the situation for themselves, but decided against signing. These include Roy Paul (Swansea) and Jack Hedley (Everton). Jack Dodds, the Lincoln player, was found to be an agent for Millionarios and was subsequently expelled from the League.

All the players, however, failed to settle and quickly returned home. - David Toole, Liverpool L14.

If Manchester United win the Premier league this year then Eric Cantona will have won championship honours in successive years with two different clubs. Has anyone else achieved this?

Gordon Smith won championship honours with three different clubs - Hibernian (1948, 1951, 1952), Hearts (1960) and Dundee (1962). - James S Sutherland, Edinburgh.

ANSWERS PLEASE

Why do no jockeys wear beards or moustaches? - Jon Chubb, Melton Mowbray, Leics.

Is there a stadium in the world which has staged more sports events or sports than Wembley? - Kevin Maguire, Batley, W Yorks.

On 2 April 1892 there was an attendance of 27,654 at Headingley to watch a Yorkshire Rugby Union Challenge Cup tie between Leeds and Halifax. Apart from recent knock-out finals at Twickenham, has this attendance ever been exceeded at a game between two English club sides? - Peter Rhodes, Nottingham.

Why have the Pools promoters chosen the scoring system that gives three points for 1-1 draws, 2 1/2 points for other score draws, two points for 0-0 draws, and 1 1/2 points for a home or away win, when awarding these results 3, 2, 1 and 0 points respectively would achieve precisely the same results, in terms of punters winning, but with simpler arithmetic? - John Haigh, Brighton.

Several professional football teams wear vertically striped shirts but only two (QPR and Reading) regularly wear hoops. Conversely, many rugby teams (union and league) wear hooped shirts but none to my knowledge wear stripes. Why the difference? - David Thornicroft, London E17.

What is the shortest price at which a horse has won a race? - Derek Peters, Wrexham.

Mike O'Grady (Huddersfield and Leeds) played twice for England and scored three goals. Is he the only international to score more goals than he earned caps? - Richard Ewart, Huddersfield.

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