Ask Norman

Own goals and Fergie's proteges

April 10, 2013
By Norman Hubbard
(Archive)

If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to ESPN's team of football anoraks at asknorman@hotmail.com and they will try to answer as many as possible.

Where does own goals rank in the top scorers' charts? Has he ever been the top scorer in the English top division? Nick Skillicorn asked

Vincent Kompany own goal v United
PA PhotosVincent Kompany diverted into his own net during the Manchester derby

Own goals would be the runaway leader on the scoring charts if it was entered. When Vincent Kompany put the ball in his own net against Manchester United on Monday, it was the 43rd time a player had scored an own goal in the Premier League this season. That is greater than the total of the two top scorers - Luis Suarez (22) and Robin van Persie (19) combined and would make own goals a rival to Lionel Messi for the European Golden Shoe.

I remember hearing that no one who has played under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United has beaten him since becoming a manager for another team (eg Steve Bruce and Mark Hughes). Fergie has obviously managed other teams before United and while being Scotland's manager he had Kenny Dalglish in his team before pulling out last minute from a World Cup. Did King Kenny play a game under Fergie's command before becoming coach of their fierce rivals? Are there any others? Matti Taimisto asked.

First of all, Ferguson has actually lost five games to sides managed by his former Manchester United players. Bryan Robson was the first to beat his mentor, Middlesbrough winning 3-2 at Old Trafford in 1998. Gordon Strachan, a member of Ferguson's Aberdeen, Scotland and United teams, recorded a 1-0 win for Southampton in 2003, courtesy of James Beattie's goal, and then oversaw a 1-0 victory for Celtic in the Champions League in 2006, with Shunsuke Nakamara the scorer.

The only one of Ferguson's former charges to beat him twice in the Premier League is Mark Hughes, who did a double in his time at Blackburn. They won 2-1 at Old Trafford, with a Morten Gamst Pedersen brace, and 4-3 at Ewood Park, with David Bentley scoring a hat-trick as Rio Ferdinand was sent off, in the 2005-06 season.

Dalglish did indeed play, briefly under Ferguson, becoming the only Scot to win 100 caps when he captained their country to a 3-0 win over Romania in 1986. Dalglish was already Liverpool's player-manager by that point and beat Ferguson for the first time in September 1988. In total, he has beaten Ferguson six times, three in his first spell as Liverpool manager, two in his second and once at Blackburn. However, normally when people talk of Ferguson's former players coming up against him, they generally mean those who represented his club sides. A previous column dealt in greater depth with the number of his players who have gone into management and he has also been beaten by Graeme Souness, another of his Scotland side.

Have there been any managers in the Premier League that have managed to get relegated more than once? For example Avram Grant managed West Ham and Portsmouth when they got relegated, Hafiz from Malaysia asked

Dave Bassett Sheffield United 1994
PA PhotosDave Bassett’s Sheffield United side were relegated in 1994

There are a group of managers associated with two relegations. They include Peter Reid (Sunderland and Leeds), Joe Royle (Oldham and Manchester City), Steve Coppell (Crystal Palace and Reading), Alex McLeish (twice with Birmingham), Owen Coyle (Burnley and Bolton), Bryan Robson (Middlesbrough and West Brom), and Danny Wilson (Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday) though in most cases, they were not in charge for the whole season - indeed, Reid was twice sacked in the opening months while Coyle left Burnley outside the relegation zone, taking over at Bolton, who were inside it, and kept Wanderers up in the 2009-10 season.

But there are actually managers with three Premier League relegations to their name. Mick McCarthy took over at Sunderland, who were already doomed, in March 2003 so that was hardly his fault. He then went down with Sunderland in 2006 and Wolves last season, though in both cases he had been sacked before the end of the campaign.

Iain Dowie, meanwhile, went down with Crystal Palace in 2005. He started the 2006-07 season in charge of Charlton, who were to be relegated after his dismissal and, as a caretaker manager, was at the helm when Hull went down in 2010.

However, above - or below - them all is a manager who went down four times within nine seasons. First Dave Bassett's Sheffield United side were relegated in 1994. He took over at Nottingham Forest, where relegation looked likely in March 1997 and, after helping them get promoted, started the 1998-99 season in charge. He was sacked in January 1999 and Forest were duly relegated. Finally, he went to Leicester in October 2001, but could not save them.

Also reader Clayton Freeman from Florida wrote: "I read your column about teams using very small squads to win the league title in England. You may be interested to know that one club has won a major domestic league with even fewer players than the 14 used by Liverpool and Aston Villa. In the 1968-69 season, Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga while using only 13 players.

"Although Bundesliga clubs were permitted two substitutions per match in 1968, manager Branko Zebec made very little use of them - only eight during the whole season. He also lined up his normal starting eleven week after week. That meant Sepp Maier in goal; Peter Pumm, Werner Olk, Georg Schwarzenbeck, and Peter Kupferschmidt in defence; Franz Roth, Franz Beckenbauer, and Gustl Starek in midfield; and Rainer Ohlhauser, Gerd Müller, and Dieter Brenninger up front. Helmut Schmidt and Gustav Jung were the only other players to appear during the season.

Schmidt made 17 starts, most of them in place of Kupferschmidt; typically, Schmidt stepped into midfield and Beckenbauer began his transition to the sweeper position he helped to make famous. Jung started one match and came off the bench in three others. The only real disruption to the line-up came when Müller was sent off in the 17th round against Hannover 96, incurring a four-match ban that took effect after the winter break. Eight players started all 34 matches, and five - Maier, Pumm, Schwarzenbeck, Ohlhauser, and Brenninger - played every minute."