Q & A: Hares, hounds, Harriers . . . and the own-goal maestro

Sunday 28 February 1993 01:02 GMT

Why do most athletics clubs have the word 'Harriers' in their name (apart from a lack of imagination)?

When athletics emerged in the 1860s and 1870s, paper-chasing became the most popular event after its introduction on Wimbledon Common in 1868 by Thames Hare and Hounds. In a paperchase, two 'hares' lay a trail of paper over the country, and the pack of 'hounds' try to catch up with them. Although this sport soon developed into cross country as we know it today, the earliest such clubs called themselves 'Hare and Hounds' or 'Harriers', and still do.

The Badminton Library volume on athletics (published 1887, revised November 1898) says: 'A club devoted to athletics alone had, until paper-chasing came into vogue, little social attraction, as compared with other clubs. The popularity of paper-chasing during the last few years has caused a large number of clubs to spring up throughout the country, which exist to promote paper

chasing and cross country racing during the winter, although they hold athletic meetings during the summer season. . . It is worth mentioning that quite a fourth part of the clubs affiliated to the AAA are Harriers or Hare and Hounds clubs. But if the paper-chasing clubs are put out of the question, it may almost be said that there are no clubs in the true sense of the word which exist purely and solely for the cultivation of running, jumping, and throwing of weights, with the exception of those which are fortunate in possessing running grounds with a cinder track of their own' - Michael Allen, London SW19 (Ex-Hon Secretary Thames Hare and Hounds).

Who were the Saints Mirren and Johnstone, and why have they never blessed Paisley and Perth with good football teams?

Local tradition has it that the origin of St Johnstone is explained thus:

The belligerent English king, Edward I, was in the habit of taking the flags of English saints into battle, as a rallying point and focus for religious effort. Edward took the flag of St John of Beverley - a famous Celtic saint - into battle against the Scots, with dramatic results - England won 5-0, and the Scottish manager was sacked. The medieval monarch was so taken with the notion of saintly intercession, that he planted the standard of St John in the captured Scottish soil, and exclaimed 'Here be Saint John's town'.

Saint John of Beverley appears to have been far too busy interceding on behalf of the deaf - for whom he is the patron saint - to bother the Almighty with the problems of his Scottish football team. - Richard Kemp, Beverley, East Yorkshire.

Mirin was a 7th century Irish missionary who founded a monastery in the place that was to become Paisley. He was buried there and his shrine became established as a place of pilgrimage.

It seems likely that the pioneers of the football club were inspired by these facts when contemplating a name for their creation.

The point that St Mirren have never had a good football team is a contentious one. During the Eighties they qualified for Europe four times and only once were they beaten in the first round, and even then the Feyenoord team who dismissed them included in its line-up at Love Street both Johan Cruyff and Ruud Gullit. - Colin Campbell, Paisley.

Which footballer holds the record for career own-goals?

It must be Noel Blake. I played against him in a junior cup match in Birmingham when he was with Sutton Town, and he slid one in from the edge of the area through a jungle of legs. Since then he's scored memorable own goals playing for Birmingham, Aston Villa, Portsmouth, Leeds, Swansea and Bradford.

The best was probably at Plough Lane. Wimbledon had simultaneously scored a goal and injured Alan Knight, the Pompey goalkeeper. On receiving the ball from the restart, Blake whacked it back to Knight who was still rubbing a sore knee. He never saw it roll past him. Nobody realised at first what had happened. Could it be the only occasion a team have scored from a kick-off without touching the ball? - Dean Johnson, Surbiton.

Is there a rule preventing linesmen from stopping or retrieving the ball after it has gone out of play? This season I have seen some linesmen going out of their way not to stop the ball, while others have helpfully stuck out a boot.

The only reference in the Laws of the Game comes under Law 9: 'To prevent being touched by the ball or interfering with play, linesmen should, as far as possible, keep out of the field of play.'

This is good advice as the game would continue if the ball hit an official whilst he was 'on the field'.

As to whether linesmen should act as 'ball boys' I would suggest not. The linesman is there to observe the players, to ensure he is always looking into the field of play, and to work at right angles looking down the touch line and across an imaginary line passing through the second rearmost defender (goalkeeper included) - for throw-ins and offside respectively.

Being concerned about the ball, when out of play, may result in him/her being out of position for a vital decision. Indeed if he directed the ball to the thrower and a subsequent 'quick throw' resulted in a goal he could be accused of giving advantage to that team.

Whilst it would probably be churlish to raise the foot and let the ball roll underneath, the best advice to all officials is leave ball control to the players - after all that's what they are there for - even if it's not always apparent. - David Paget, Bradford.

Other than chess, snooker and equestrianism, are there any other sports in which women compete on equal terms with men?

Women are able to compete on equal terms in most forms of four-wheel motor sport. Since World War II Maria Teresa de Filippis, Lella Lombardi and Davina Galica have driven in Formula One, and Giovanna Amati was a member of the Brabham team for the first three grands prix of last season. Even in the fastest and arguably most dangerous form of motor racing, Indycar, there is no bar on women; Janet Guthrie competed with distinction a few years ago. - David Iliff, Cheltenham.

Horse racing. - Peter Armstrong, Cheltenham.

I have seen the name of Ipswich Town's Bulgarian player spelt Bontcho Guentchev (by, among others, the BBC) and Boncho Genchev. Which is it?

As Mike Noye, the Commercial Director of Ipswich Town, stated, the club has a contract with a player called Bontcho Guentchev; they do not have any player called Boncho Genchev. Surely the correct spelling of any footballer's name is that registered with the FA. Ipswich Town's other striker, Chris Kiwomya, uses his original tribal name (as the Sunday Mirror likes to inform us. Funny really, I didn't know there were any tribes in Huddersfield). So is the Independent on Sunday going to do an investigation to see if his name is spelt correctly? - Simon Gray, Ipswich.


It is common these days to see batsmen being dismissed by top class substitutes fielding in their normal position nstead of being placed in the outfield, as was the case in past years. When and how did this change come about? - B Hansen, Chesham Bois, Bucks.

Why is 111 and its multiples considered unlucky in cricket? Why does the umpire David Shepherd stand on one leg while the score is on a 'Nelson', and what is the longest he has ever had to hop leg to leg? - Colin Scaife, Braintree.

I have in my possession a copy of an obituary about a boxer and walker called Jack Hurley who died in 1896. Two extracts stand out: 'There is much in Hurley to admire forgetting of course, his faults', and 'and who is there barren of something they would prefer to forget and hide from the fierce light of public criticism?' Does anybody know anything of this man? What were his faults and what did he have to hide? - John Warren, Shropshire.

If points were awarded to each club depending upon final league position (eg one point for champions, two points for runners-up, etc, down to 92), and the totals obtained for each club since the war, and averaged over the number of seasons each club has competed in the Football League, which teams would now represent the Premier League? Would my club, Sheffield Wednesday, finish in a higher position than our rivals across the city? - P Trotter, Coulsdon, Surrey.

In view of Prabhakar's dual roles in the current Test series, how many other Test players have opened the bowling and batting for their country, regularly or otherwise? - Janice Crowther, Camberley.

In the Press and Journal Highland League last week the match between Buckie Thistle and Inverness Clachnacuddin was abandoned due to 'high winds'. Is this occurence as rare as I suspect? What are the stipulations for calling a game off? And do Inverness Clachnacuddin hold the record for the longest club name in the British Isles? - R A White, London N19.

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

(Photograph omitted)

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