Q&A: Shame on you, Wakefield . . . and welcome to the pasty

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I understand that, in terms of population, Aldershot was the smallest town to support a Premier/Football League club. Since their demise, what is now the smallest town to support a League club? Conversely, what is the largest town which does not have League representation?

Measured according to the population of local government districts, Hereford (pop. 51,200) is the smallest town with a League club. The largest town without one is Wakefield (pop. 315,800). The figures are the latest estimates from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, based on the 1991 census. - Michael Crick, Oxford.

Milton Keynes, with a population in excess of 150,000, not only does not support a Football League team, it does not support a GM Vauxhall Conference team or a Diadora/Beazer Homes League team. Its highest teams appear in the South Midlands Leagues, six divisions off the Football League. In fact, Milton Keynes' women's football team are far higher up their pyramid of leagues. Milton Keynes is therefore in the position of having ice hockey as its largest spectator sport. - Stephen Ayre, Milton Keynes.

Your correspondent is mistaken in his assumption that Aldershot is the club serving the town with the smallest population. This is indeed far from the case; four towns, Hereford (48,400), Scarborough (43,050), Wrexham (41,750) and Crewe (48,270) have populations smaller than Aldershot's, which was last recorded at 54,358. Populations are taken from a recent issue of the AA Handbook.

It seems clear that the largest centres of population not so served are within the new towns; for instance, Milton Keynes (186,000), Telford (115,000), Harlow (71,000) and Crawley (80,726). Some centres of population have at one time been served by Football League clubs who have left the League for whatever reason. Within this category fall Newport (116,000), Maidstone (91,400), Gateshead (91,893), Southport (89,000) and Barrow (60,000).

Apart from this, in more self-contained centres of population, towns which come to mind are Gloucester (90,500) and Bath (87,161), although in both there are thriving rugby clubs to which a high level of the population give their support. In addition, Chelmsford (92,479) has never risen above non-League status. - John Dean, Copthorne, Surrey.

Whence 'Oggi, Oggi, Oggi'? What, if anything, does it mean, and who first used it?

Cornwall was, and still is, one of the underprivileged areas of the Celtic fringe, and a century or so ago the average miner, fisherman and farm labourer could afford only the most basic food.

In West Cornwall dialect a lump of baked dough was an ' 'obbin'. The addition of a handful of raisins (figs) made it a 'figgy 'obbin' and if the dough contained potatoes (taaties) it became a 'taatie 'obbin'. With the occasional additional luxury of meat it became a Cornish pasty.

In Plymouth, the nearest large English settlement to Cornwall, potatoes are 'teddies' or 'tiddies', so 'taatie 'obbin' became corrupted to 'tiddy oggie'. Because of the Devonport Naval Base next door to Plymouth, the expression soon entered the slang of the Royal Navy so that in naval parlance, a Cornish pasty is always referred to as a 'tiddy oggie'.

In Cornwall, where, after Methodism, rugby union is a national religion, it has long been the custom on county championship Saturdays for Cornish supporters to tie a large pasty to the crossbar, especially when playing Devon at Devonport Rectory Ground.

The Jolly Jack Tars in the crowd soon devised the war-cry 'Oggie, Oggie, Oggie', and this has now spread throughout most of the West Country.

I heard our Welsh cousins chanting it in the recent match against Australia - perhaps it was imported to the Principality from the Duchy by the Cornishman Colin Laity at Neath. - Terry Paul, Plymouth.

Why is a boxing ring so called?

In the early days of prize-fighting in England, nearly 300 years ago, spectators stood in a circle to form an arena. Prints of bare-knuckle contests from that era sometimes show the pugilists in such a ring.

When ropes and poles were introduced many years later the construction of the traditional circle was impossible, and the square ring was born. - Norman Railton, Helmsley, York.

In Australia and New Zealand the term 'five-eighth' is used to describe the outside-half in rugby union. What is the logic behind this, when did the term originate, and does it also apply to the inside-centre?

This is merely a redefinition of the method of describing the positions of the backs on the field in terms of fractions, from the full-back, through the two wings and centres collectively known as threequarter backs, to the scrum-half (back). Whereas non-antipodean sides refer to the outside-half or fly-half, the Australians and New Zealanders have correctly realised that this player operates in a deeper position from the scrum-half and not as deep as the threequarters, hence the 'five-eighth' position. If you really want to be precise, then the outside-half would remain, and the scrum-half renamed the scrum-quarter, or quarterback, as is the case in American football. - Steve Marron, London SW15.

What happened to the Bon Accord football club after their record 36-0 defeat by Arbroath in 1885?

The records suggest that Arbroath were not drawn against a team called Bon Accord at all, but against Orion FC of Aberdeen. The invitation to Orion FC (a very minor club) went to the Orion Cricket Club by mistake and, for whatever reason, they decided to play the game and changed their name to Bon Accord for the occasion. This would certainly explain why Bon Accord arrived with neither kit nor shorts. Presumably 'Bon Accord' never played football again.

By coincidence, Arbroath were drawn against Orion FC two seasons later - and on Saturday 3 September 1887 they beat them 20-0 in a first-round game. The games Arbroath played against the two Orions have gone into the history books as, respectively, the highest and the fifth-highest first-class victories in British football.

Among the other records established in the 36-0 win are:

John Petrie scored 13 goals, the highest ever by a single player in a first- class match.

The Arbroath keeper, Ned Doig, never once touched the ball during the game.

Arbroath scored 10 goals between the 46th and 60th minute, the fastest spell of scoring ever in British history.

The referee David Stormont disallowed six perfectly good goals to try to keep the score down. - Phil Soar, London W11.

Which country has achieved the highest number of club honours in European football competitions, and where does England come in the trophy table?

Based on the three major competitions (European Cup, Cup-Winners' Cup, Fairs/Uefa Cup), England have been the most successful country with 23 trophy wins despite the post-Heysel ban. Runners-up are Spain with 20 trophies followed by Italy with 17. Other countries to have won European trophies are West Germany (12), the Netherlands (nine), Portugal and Belgium (four), the Soviet Union and Scotland (three), Yugoslavia and Sweden (two) with Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania and East Germany all winning one.

If the wins are divided between the three cups England are still top in each competition, with eight victories in the European Cup, six in the Cup-Winners', and nine in the Fairs/Uefa. - David Toole, Liverpool L14.


Have racehorses, like athletes, got faster over the years? And, if so, at the same rate? - Tom Richardson, London NW3.

When and why were the top 44 League clubs allowed to join the FA Cup at the third round, leaving only 20 places for the remaining 360 or so competitors? Has a change ever been proposed? - Roger Titford, Pewsey, Wiltshire.

There are rules limiting the number of overseas players in county cricket teams and the number of 'non-native' players in certain European football matches. They mean that certain jobs are not open to people purely because of their nationality. How do they avoid falling foul of race discrimination laws and (in the case of footballers from EC countries) European rules on the free movement of labour? - A Galloway, London SE6.

It has always been my contention that if a goalkeeper facing a penalty kick does not move until the ball is struck and the ball is kicked hard to the corner of the goal it will be impossible for him to make a save. Is this true? - Roy Fuller, Reading.

If it takes me four hours to run a marathon, am I working harder than someone who can run the distance in two and a half hours? How do you quantify effort? - Phil Barrett, Birmingham B13.

If in a game of football a player commits a foul and the referee plays advantage, can he subsequently caution or send off the offending player? - David Peacock, Bath.

Who is or was the heaviest man to have played first-class rugby? - Mark Simpson, Gloucester.

What is the least number of league appearances made by a footballer before his full international debut? - Matt Clements, Loughborough.

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