A. Darwen is an old mill town in East Lancashire. The team is presently mid-table in the First Division of the Carling North West Counties League, and plays at the Anchor Ground, which is only about one mile away from Ewood Park in Blackburn. As you can imagine, the size of the crowds has been adversely affected by the success of Blackburn Rovers, and the club relies upon fund-raising functions and local goodwill to get by and meet its debts.
The club is steeped in history, being one of the founder-members of the Football League Second Division. During their eight years as a League club Darwen FC managed one season in the First Division and hold a record which still stands, the First Division's heaviest defeat, 12-0 against West Bromwich. However, on the credit side the club reached the FA Cup semi-finals in 1881 after making the quarter-finals on two previous occasions.
Your correspondent might also be interested to note that in the mid-1870s Jimmy Love and Fergy Suter joined Darwen, having played previously for Partick. They became the country's first professional footballers.
The Anchor Ground's best gate was 9,000 against Luton Town in the 1909 FA Cup tie and 6,500 in 1932 in the same competition against Chester City. Following victory in that particular match Darwen's reward was a trip to Highbury to meet Arsenal, who included Alex James, Ted Drake and Cliff Bastin in their team.
A crowd of 27,000 witnessed a tie which the Gunners won handsomely. However, the game captured the imagination of the football world and it was extensively covered in the national press at the time. Links between the two clubs were forged and Darwen were presented with an Arsenal strip, which became (and still is) the club's official colours. - Philip T Pressler, Darwen
A. Darwen, a Lancashire town approximately six miles south of Blackburn, entered the Football League along with Sunderland in 1891-92, when the League was extended to 14 clubs. They finished 14th, the 12-0 defeat to West Brom coming along the way.
They then joined the newly formed Second Division in 1892-93. In their last season, 1898-99, not only did they lose 9-0 to Manchester United, they also went down 9-2 to Grimsby Town and 10-0 to Manchester City, Loughborough Town and Walsall, still the only club to suffer three 10-0 defeats in single season, amassing 143 goals against in 34 matches, also a record. They were not re-elected after finishing bottom of the Second Division. - Alan Tyler, Timperley
Q. There are 13 professional clubs in London. Do any other cities have more than a couple of professional clubs?
A. Falling short of London's 13 teams, Madrid boasts nine professional teams in the Spanish First and Second Divisions. The two obvious and most famous are Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid currently in the First Division. Rayo Vallecano, Getafe and Leganes are presently in the Second Division (A section). CD Mostoles, CF Fuenlabrada, S Sebastian De Los Reyes and CDC Moscardo are to be found in Group One of the regionalised Second Division (B section).
This list does not take into account the nursery or B teams of Real and Atletico, who also have teams in the Second Divisions. Essentially youth/reserve teams run by the larger clubs, they can never be promoted to the First Division regardless of how successful they are. - Pablo Reidy, London SW17
Q. Was Ellery Hanley the first black person to captain a British national sporting team, in the France v Great Britain rugby league international in 1985?
A. Although I do not have the details, I must assume that Desmond Douglas, who has been playing table tennis at international level for around 20 years and was No 1 for quite a few years, must have captained the British Swaythling cup team at some time before 1985. - John Severs, Durham City
Q. Am I right in thinking that Bobby Charlton was actually booked towards the end of his career? - Julian Thake, Worcester
Q. In 1989, Rush and Beardsley (cost: £5m) were the Liverpool substitutes in a League match at Wimbledon. Has there been a more expensive substitutes' bench at home or abroad? - Ajay Chatrath, Edgware
Q. In non-contact sports such as golf and tennis, at what position in the men's world rankings would the top women players like Laura Davies and Steffi Graf be on a par with, assuming that they played under the same conditions (e.g. tee positions, number of sets)? - Geoff Pigott, Chelmsford
Q. Which Test cricket ground has the longest boundary? And which has the shortest? - Kevin Maguire, Batley
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