Q & A: When Vicarage Road was the place to go . . . . . and Tranmere Rovers' scouse home guard

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What are the country's best-supported football clubs as regards average attendances expressed as a percentage of the town's population?

In 1982-83, Watford's debut season in the top flight, they enjoyed an average attendance at Vicarage Road of 20,080 in all League and Cup games. As the town's population at the time was 78,000 (according to the 1981 census) this figure represents an amazing proportion of 25.7 per cent. Not bad for an area not thought of as a soccer hot-bed. - Ian Barton, Watford.

May I put forward the name of Featherstone Rovers as the country's best-supported rugby league team. Featherstone is a small West Yorkshire town near Pontefract with a population of 14,043. When they were last in the First Division in 1991-92 their home gate averaged 4,001, an amazing 28 per cent of the population. The figure was all the more remarkable as it was not even a good year for Rovers - they were relegated. In 1983 they reached the Challenge Cup final against Hull. While Hull had no difficulty in selling 40,000 of their Wembley allocation (16 per cent of that city's population), Rovers had to launch a national appeal for support having sold just under 15,000 of their tickets, which was still more than the town's population. - David Walker, Hull.

What would happen if a cricket player was 'bowled' off a no-ball which then travelled to the boundary?

The batsman would be not out and it would count as four runs - in fact four no-balls. The striker cannot be bowled out from a no-ball, so the fact that his wicket is broken does not make the ball dead. Any runs scored count. As a no- ball was bowled and the striker did not make contact (presumably), the runs count as no-balls. I feel sure it will have happened somewhere, sometime, but in 14 years of umpiring I have never seen it or heard of it. It would be difficult to trace in scorebooks because there is no recognised symbol to indicate that the wicket was broken: the only entry in the bowling section would be a circle containing four dots. - Fred Godson, cricket umpire, Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear.

What is arguably the greatest comeback in sporting history?

Barry Sheene's in 1975. In March of that year, at the Daytona 200 in Florida, Sheene approached the banking at 175mph. The tyres, unused to the speed and consequent heat, exploded and threw him over the high side. He was left with a broken femur, wrist, forearm, collarbone, compression fractures of various vertebrae, six broken ribs and, obviously, some skin removal. Six weeks later, he was racing at Cadwell Park. The following year, he won his first 500cc world championship. - N Laing, Paddock Wood, Kent.

How often do impulsive, but marginally premature, celebrations misfire?

In 1990, in the Amstel Gold cycling classic, the Netherlands' most prestigious race, Luc Besson sprinted past his breakaway companion and began to celebrate his greatest win. He had just started to raise his hands in the traditional victory salute when he was overtaken by the Dutchman Adrian van der Poel, who had sprung from a chasing group. - Graham Fulcher, Redhill, Surrey.

Which Premier or Football League team can boast the highest number of locally born players ever to have represented the club in any one league match?

For the first 28 Third Division fixtures of the 1977-78 season, John King selected the same Tranmere Rovers team - their birthplaces are in brackets: Dickie Johnson (Huyton), Ray Mathias (Liverpool), Eddie Flood (Liverpool), Les Parry (Wallasey), Dave Philpotts (Wirral), Clive Evans (Wirral), Steve Peplow (Liverpool), Mark Palios (Wallasey), Ronnie Moore (Huyton), Bobby Tynan (Liverpool) and Russell Allen (Smethwick). The last named was the only 'foreigner' in the team, the others all having been born within 10 miles of Prenton Park. The value of this consistency to team spirit was clearly evident. By the time King was forced to make a team change in January 1978, Rovers sat proudly on top of their division. - Chris Metcalfe, London NW11.

How did the term 'pole position' originate?

In those nostalgic days when grands prix were started by flag, as opposed to today's traffic lights, the driver nearest to the flag at the start of the race was said to be 'on the flagpole', subsequently known as pole position. - Adrian Bodkin, London N2.

What is the name of the catchy tune played in the goals sequences on Match of the Day and Football Focus? Is the music for sale?

The music used to accompany the goals round-up on Match of the Day is in fact 'Life on Loop' by Steve Spiro, on Virgin records. 'Life of Riley' by the Lightning Seeds is used for 'Goal of the Month' and on Sportsnight during the programme menu. - Vivien Kent, producer, 'Sportsnight' and 'Match of the Day', BBC Television.

I understand that the last county side before Yorkshire to drop a birth qualification was Nottinghamshire, at about the time of the 'Bodyline' series. Is this correct?

A W Carr, who captained the county for several years between the wars, was born at Mickleham in Surrey. Perhaps Mr Wynne-Thomas was only thinking of professional cricketers in his reply two weeks ago. - R Benyard, Oakham, Leicestershire.

What is the highest attendance for a football match between two reserve teams?

On 20 March 1954, Port Vale reserves played Mossley before a crowd estimated in excess of 30,000. This phenomenon was due to the game coinciding with the sale of tickets for Vale's tie with West Brom in the FA Cup semi- final at Villa Park the following month.

With Vale running away with the Third Division North and being only the second 'lower division' side to reach this stage of the competition, a massive 50,000 people queued for the 25,000 allocation, many staying on afterwards to watch the reserve game in a carnival atmosphere] - Kevin Bassett, Stoke-on-Trent.

According to Paul Joannou's Newcastle United: a complete record, a Central League fixture between their reserves and Leeds United reserves in May 1951 attracted an attendance of 60,000. This may have been partly because the FA Cup was to be paraded around the ground after the game. During the 1933-34 season Newcastle's Central League average gate was almost 17,000. - Jean Jackson, Stoke-on-Trent.


What is the largest number of runs ever scored from one stroke - not including boundaries - in first-class cricket? - Mike Atkinson, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire.

Can someone explain the Sony world golf rankings to me? Over what period do tournaments count towards the rankings and how are the various tournaments around the world graded? - Tom Sawyer, Borstal, Kent.

On which ground has the outcome of the largest number of Ashes series been decided? - Greg Milland, Taunton.

Why do cricketers seem to have such large bottoms? Could it be anything to do with muscle development when in a crouching position? - Joanna Rimmer, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne.

In direct contrast to an upset, what is perceived as the greatest underachievement in terms of expectation? As a Derby County follower I would suggest that Nottingham Forest's display last season ranks very highly. - Jeff Brades, Penrith, Cumbria.

What is the fate of old balls in Test cricket? Also, has any pitch-invader ever stolen the stump that contains the television camera? - Richard J Hodgson, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands.

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