Q&A: Joe Payne's full house . . . and Irish code-breakers

What has been the longest penalty shoot-out, in domestic and world football?

The longest penalty shoot-out in any senior British game was between Aldershot and Fulham in a Freight Rover Trophy Southern Section quarter-final tie on 10 February 1987. There were 28 penalty kicks with Aldershot 11-10 winners. The longest shoot-out for any senior game is 44 for the Argentinian League game between Argentinos Juniors and Racing Club on 20 November 1988. Argentinos won 20-19. - Alan Burdon, Hertfordshire.

England's Under-18 team were defeated 12-11 by their Portuguese counterparts at the European Championships in Germany in July 1992. Thirty kicks were taken. - N S Smith, Luton.

English, Scottish and Welsh rugby union internationals have switched codes to rugby league. Have any Irish players done so, and how many?

My father, Robin Thompson of Instonians, Ulster and Ireland, who captained the Lions on their tour to South Africa in 1955, was one. He played rugby league for Warrington. - Hugh Thompson, Nottingham.

The best known (and best) Irish recruit was Ken Goodall, No 8 and linchpin of the thumping win over Wales in 1970. Mervyn Davies said he would not have got into the 1971 Lions Test team if Goodall hadn't gone north. - Cris Freddi, London W12.

The Australian, Brian Smith, qualified for Ireland under the parentage ruling and played several games in 1989-90 as out-half. Never a popular choice with fans or the local press, he confirmed his standing as bete noire of Irish rugby by assuring the public and selectors that he would remain loyal to Ireland and be available for the World Cup, and then signing a lucrative deal with an Australian league side the next day.

However, the Irish fans, who had little enough to cheer about, were rewarded twofold. Firstly, his place was taken by Ralph Keyes, who went on to become the highest points scorer in the World Cup, and secondly, Smith's debut for his Australian club was in a

44-0 defeat, a scoreline which was greeted with as much jubilation as an Irish football victory. - David Montgomery, Vancouver, British Columbia.

The international impact of Irish players has been small, Tom McKinney being the only Irish- born player to represent Great Britain. - Paul Weatherburn, Leeds.

I am a lifetime supporter of Bristol City, and my father told me that John Atyeo scored in every debut match he played in, both domestic and international. Is this true, and has anyone else done it?

I'm afraid I know nothing of John Atyeo, but I do know that Alan Shearer has scored on every debut, including Wallsend Boys Club, Newcastle Schools teams, Southampton youth team, reserves and first team. (He is still the youngest player to score a hat- trick in the top division.) He then performed the same feat at England Under-21 and full international level, before scoring on his Blackburn debut. - Mrs J A Martin, Wiltshire.

Jimmy Greaves scored on his debut for Chelsea Juniors, Chelsea reserves, the England youth team, Chelsea, England under- 23s, England, Milan, Tottenham reserves, Tottenham, West Ham. - N S Smith, Luton.

Have any British basketball players played in the American NBA?

Steve Bucknall, who currently plays for Villeurbanne (France) and England, spent one season in the late 1980s in California with the Los Angeles Lakers. The 7ft 5in Alan Bannister signed with Utah Jazz in 1990, but due to a severe knee injury he never actually played a game for them. He would have been the second tallest player in the NBA, behind Philadelphia's Manute Bol at 7ft 7in.

Spencer Dunkley, at 6ft 10in, could be about to join the ranks. He plays college basketball with Delaware and is going to enter the NBA draft. - Alan Tonkinson (aged 14), Northampton.

Has there ever been an occasion when an own goal was deliberate (in any sport but preferably football)?

In American football, in the 1984 NFC Divisional play-off game, the Washington Redskins had pulled to within six points of the Chicago Bears and, with the game in its final minutes, had forced the Bears to punt from their own goal-line. This meant that the punter, Dave Finzer, would be punting from inside his own end zone, almost half the desired 15 yards he would normally position himself from the line of scrimmage, greatly increasing the chance of the kick being blocked. This would almost certainly have lead to a game-winning touchdown for the Redskins, and rather than risk this, Finzer took the snap and walked out of the back of the end zone, deliberately conceding a safety and two points.

As a result of this tactical concession the Bears were allowed to kick the ball away from a safer field position (the team conceding a safety has to kick off from its own 20-yard line). The Redskins still needed a touchdown to win as the Bears' lead had only been reduced to four points, and the play ran precious time off the clock, allowing less time for a Redskins comeback. The Bears went on to win 23-19. - Andrew Breslin, Lancaster.

How did Ray Wilkins get the name 'Butch', and what was the name of his footballer brother?

Ray Wilkins owes the nickname to his team-mates at Chelsea, who thought it appropriate in view of his abundant upper-body hair. - Richard Tillery, London SE16.

'Butch' was a childhood nickname, somewhat like Dimples or Buster. On his appointment as Chelsea captain in 1975 he made it clear that this was not a nickname he felt was appropriate any longer, and it has faded into disuse. - Paul Dennehy, Enfield, Middx.

Apart from Graham at Chelsea (20 June) and Dean at Brighton (13 June), I had the privilege of playing with another brother, Steve, in non-league football with Chesham United. - Phil Ruston, Leighton Buzzard, Beds.

ANSWERS PLEASE

What is arguably the greatest comeback in sporting history? - Stephen Holt, Addlestone, Surrey.

In county cricket losing sides can acquire points for batting and bowling that contribute to their championship total. Is this practice unique in sporting leagues? How are County Championship points awarded? - David Lee, Enfield, Middx.

A newspaper report two or three years ago concerned an amateur tennis player in Wimbledon who placed a bet on himself to win his local amateur tournament. The bookmaker, assuming he was referring to the All England Championship, accepted the bet at very long odds. Can anyone confirm this story? - Mr J Harrold, Bristol.

During the first five seasons after the First World War, Football League fixtures were arranged so that home and away games against the same team were arranged back to back. Why were they planned in this way, and why was the system abandoned? - Peter Gutteridge, Cambridge.

Do cricket umpires go to school? If so, what might be their instructions for indicating decisions? Mervyn Kitchen signals boundaries with a kind of windscreen- wiper motion and his sign for a dismissal has become almost horizontal. Kitchen is not alone in his idiosyncratic ways. Do Test umpires have carte blanche for their semaphore signals? - Sandra Campbell, Maida Vale.

Has anyone batted in every position from 1-11 in first class cricket? - Kevin Maguire, Batley.

In 1983-84, Tony Evans was Crystal Palace's top scorer with seven goals. All were scored away from Selhurst Park. Has any other player finished as his club's top scorer without scoring at home? - Brian J Hobbs, West Croydon, Surrey.

The United Kingdom sends four football teams into international competitions. Are there any other competitions in which one nation (apart from the UK) sends more than one team? - Simon Goodman, Saltdean, East Sussex.

How does one obtain a pin-up of Gavin Hastings? (full-length, preferably). - Debbie Moore, London N1.

Are there any countries other than Britain where most sporting events are prefaced by the names of commercial sponsors? - Cyril Howard, Richmond, Surrey.

If you know the answers to any of these questions, or have a sporting question of your own you would like answered, write to:

Q & A

Sports Desk

Independent on Sunday

40 City Road

London EC1Y 2DB

Fax: 071 956 1894

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