Q & A: The North-South divide . . . and Everton's black spot

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Why, despite the seemingly high quality of some of the non-league teams, does there never seem to be any relegation from or promotion to the Scottish Football League?

Apart from the Premier Division, all Scottish League clubs are in the south, whereas clubs in the Highland League, from which possible new recruits would be drawn, are all in the north. The Highland League has long been regarded as the equal of the Scottish Second Division (indeed, the top teams would probably hold their own in the First Division).

So if there were promotion and relegation between the two they would eventually become geographically interspersed. This would be economic madness, since the clubs concerned have to survive on gates which are a fraction of those in, say, the GM Vauxhall Conference. There is no way that the likes of Ross County and Buckie Thistle could afford to play away games against Stranraer or Berwick Rangers, or vice-versa. - Dave Pointon, Tipton, West Midlands.

When a vacancy arose in the Scottish Second Division, in 1974, the members voted in Meadowbank Thistle, then an Edinburgh works team called Ferranti Thistle. - G Strang, Esher, Surrey.

Is surgery ever performed to enhance sporting performance rather than to repair damage caused by injury?

When Frank Bruno applied for a professional boxing licence in the early 1980s he was turned down by the British Boxing Board of Control because of short-sightedness in his right eye. He went to Bogota, Colombia, where a surgeon who specialises in such operations corrected the defect. Bruno then had to wait a year to re-apply for his licence, which he was duly granted. - Kenneth Cameron, Scarborough.

Did any club play in both the Third Division North and Third Division South? Also, if, say, two northern sides were relegated from the old Second Division, by which criterion would one team have been placed in the southern section, or would a team have been moved from one regional division to the other?

Relegation from the Second Division to regional Third Divisions took place 29 times between 1922 and 1958. On 18 occasions it was possible to divide the two teams between the Third Divisions without any problems. On seven occasions both relegated teams went to the Third Division North and on three occasions to the South. In these circumstances teams were usually transferred between the regional divisions to compensate, and this affected Coventry City, Shrewsbury Town, Port Vale, Mansfield Town and Walsall. - Ian Kendall, Emsworth, Hampshire.

In the senior leagues outside the Football League the situation still occurs today, as the feeders for the GM Vauxhall Conference comprise two in the south (the Diadora and Beazer) and one in the north (the HFS Loans). Fairly recently teams like Shepshed Charterhouse were transferred back and forth, and a few years ago the end of the season was often the beginning of a new era for King's Lynn, who often had to wait to see who they would be playing the following season. - Stephen Williamson, Dartford, Kent.

Coventry City, uniquely, played in all six divisions of the Football League between 1925 and 1967. Now, as inaugural members of the Premier League, they have played in all seven 'top-flight' divisions. - Paul McFarland, London W12.

Most of the teams moving backwards and forwards between the two regional sections performed much better in the Northern section. - Mark A Tull, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Have Everton ever had a black footballer on their books?

Cliff Marshall, a local youngster and England schoolboy international, signed for the club in November 1973 after making his way up through the local junior leagues. He made his first- team debut on 18 January 1975 in a League match at Birmingham City, and during 1974-75 and 1975-76 he made seven League appearances in Everton's midfield (one as substitute) and one FA Cup game. In September 1976 he left the club to join Southport. - Stephen Bull, Verwood, Dorset.

The 1966 FA Cup final featured Mike Trebilcock scoring two goals in the 3-2 win over Sheffield Wednesday. He made 11 League appearances for Everton before moving to Portsmouth, where he scored some exciting goals and was a favourite with the Fratton End. He scored hat-tricks against Watford and Blackburn in October 1970, and in the same season a memorable last-minute equaliser against Arsenal in the fourth round of the FA Cup. - J Lambert, Warrington.

Many people will remember Cliff Marshall and Mike Trebilcock, but the question is surely why there have only been two black Everton players. - Lorna Foster, Liverpool L23.

Until Cliff Marshall, perhaps the closest Everton came to having a black footballer on their books was when they signed the legendary William Ralph Dean, christened 'Dixie' by the fans because of his tanned complexion. Colin Harvey and Howard Kendall have since tried to sign Mark Walters, Ian Wright and Dion Dublin. There is no truth in the rumour that they once tried to sign Ron Noades. - Andrew Harvey, Southport.

Cliff Marshall never appeared in a losing Everton team. - Graham Woodhouse, Bootle, Merseyside.

My dream football result is Forfar 5 East Fife 4. Have they ever got close?

I have a database which contains the result of every senior match played by Scottish clubs since 1873. Forfar Athletic and East Fife have met each other in League, League Cup and Scottish Cup matches a total of 102 times, from 8 October 1921 to 29 August 1992. In a Second Division game at Station Park on 22 April 1964, Athletic did indeed beat East Fife 5-4. - Peter Ross, Llantwit Fardre, Mid-Glamorgan.

Surely Mr Walton should be dreaming of the scoreline 'East Fife 5 Forfar 4'. This result was reported in 1982 on The Two Ronnies. - Philip E Mehl, London NW8.

Why do football pitches have corner flags?

Your correspondent of last week may well be correct about the origins of the corner flag but he is not when he says 'there is no need for them now, but traditions linger on.'

The Referees' and Players' Guide to the Laws of Association Football clearly states under Law 1, 'The Field of Play', Paragraph 2 - 'Marking' - that: 'A flag or a post not less than five feet high and having a non-pointed top shall be placed at each corner.' Their value to spectators, players and referees, is when the ball would go out of play at the angle of the touchline and goal-line. The absence of a post could make decisions regarding throw-ins, goal-kicks and corners difficult and controversial. - David Paget, Bradford.

Why do Mexican waves go anti-clockwise?

As a recent arrival to England from the southern hemisphere I was very puzzled by this question. All the Mexican waves I saw in Sydney went clockwise. In Sydney, too, they always start in the cheap seats. - Gideon Caplan, Newcastle upon Tyne.

ANSWERS PLEASE

Statistically speaking, which is the most dangerous sport? - Sylvia Benbow, London NW3.

What speed in mph do sprinters like Linford Christie and Carl Lewis achive during a 100 metres race? And what is the world record for the 100 yards? - Dick Coon, Malton, North Yorks.

Sheffield United were so named in March, 1889. Were any other Association Football clubs called 'United' before that date? - Andrew Kirkham, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.

One batsman hits the ball, the batsmen run but collide and fall to the ground. They are both run out. Has this ever happened? If one or both batsmen were injured, would they still be out? - Jim Gibbons, Brighton.

What is the 'firing' of racehorses' legs? Does it improve their performance, and is it as painful as it sounds? - Geoff McCandless, Birmingham B2.

Apart from Gascoigne, Platt and Walker, are there any British footballers playing abroad? I was wondering particularly if there are any players plying their trade outside Europe. - Jonathan Dickens, Havertree.

During athletics meetings on television I often seem to see long jumpers and high jumpers turning to their coaches after they have jumped, gesturing as if asking what they did wrong. Surely there is a rule against coaching during events? And if so, how do they get away with it? - Elaine Gray, Milton Keynes.

What is the origin of Australian Rules? - P J Narayan, Horsham, Sussex.

Have managers of the England football team always suffered at the hands of the popular press? - Janice Frognal, Papworth.

Is there anything in FIFA rules that prevents women playing football with men? I believe there have been several cases of girls playing for school teams, but have women risen any higher up the ladder than that (outside women- only leagues, that is)? - Petra Bruchner, Inverness.

What was the first sporting event to be televised? - Dennis Andrews, Sutton Coldfield.

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