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Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Pool positions and Giggs' records

Norman Hubbard

Norman Hubbard is ESPNsoccernet's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to and he'll try to answer as many as possible. At one point Blackpool topped the Premier League last season (on the opening day for a few hours) but unfortunately they finished the season 19th. Has a team ever occupied every single position in the league table in a single season? Lincoln McPhee asked. I don't think so, although I haven't got definitive proof. Blackpool were, as Lincoln said, top after beating Wigan 4-0 in their opening fixture although Chelsea, who kicked off later that same day, soon overhauled them with a 6-0 win over West Brom. Blackpool went on to occupy 16 places in the league table; all bar 3rd, 5th, 6th and 20th. In the modern era, with different kick-off times - mainly due to demands of television companies - there is greater opportunity for teams to be in more positions in swift succession. However, I did find one team with a distinction that Blackpool did not quite manage. The Millwall side of 1989-90 occupied both the top three and the bottom three positions during the season, along with most in between though sadly (for statistical purposes, anyway) not all. Who has more trophies or winners' medals in England, Sir Alex Ferguson or Ryan Giggs? Giggs has been around pretty much since the time Manchester United started winning. However I'm not sure if Giggs was in the team when they won the Cup Winners' Cup and the UEFA Super Cup in 1991. But please also factor in the medals Giggs has won as part of the youth team. I don't think Ferguson would be credited for that. So counting everything would Giggs' trophy cabinet have more medals or would it be Fergie's? Aashish Bhusnurmath asked. Not for the first time, the winner is Ferguson. Giggs won the FA Youth Cup in 1992, but did not play in the Cup Winners' Cup side of 1991, though he did come off the bench in the Super Cup later that year. He has 33 senior medals (12 Premier League, eight Charity/Community Shield, four FA Cup, four League Cup two Champions League, one Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup and one World Club Cup) plus the Youth Cup, to Ferguson's 37 (12 Premier League, 10 Charity/Community Shields, five FA Cups, four League Cups, one Cup Winners' Cup, one Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup, one World Club Cup). Ferguson has won the Charity or Community Shield in two years when Giggs did not: 1990 and 2011. By the way, that is also excluding individual accolades, though Ferguson's 26 manager of the month awards would put him on top there, too. Ryan Giggs has played his 900th match for Manchester United and will almost certainly surpass Paolo Maldini's 902 games for one club. Is there anyone else who played more times as a one-club man? And since we are on this subject, how many games has Ryan still to play (including internationals) to become the player with most games played ever? Presumably Peter Shilton is on the top now, George Bakradze asked. Paolo Maldini's 902 games for AC Milan is a record among one-club men, certainly in the major leagues, so that mantle will pass to Giggs shortly. Peter Shilton, however, can rest assured that even the evergreen Giggs is unlikely to displace him. The Manchester United winger also played 64 times for Wales, but Shilton made 1,237 club appearances and won 125 England caps, taking him to 1,362 games (I'm not counting B, Under-23 and Under-21 games, though some might). So if Giggs averaged 50 games a season, which is unlikely, it would take him another eight years to pass Shilton - by which time he would be well into his 47th year. Even 40 games a year is quite an achievement - by way of illustration, he played 38 times in the 2010-11 campaign - so at that rate, those extra 400 or so games would occupy him until he was 48 and a half. Sir Alex Ferguson, were he still in charge, would be 80 by then. As Ryan Giggs has reached 900 appearances for Manchester United, I was wondering how many Man United players has he played alongside during these 20 years? My friends and I are guessing somewhere in the region of 250, which means slightly more than one new player per position every year, Anders Steinvall from Sweden asked. You and your friends are some way off, I'm afraid. At the moment, it is a mere 140 players who have been on the pitch for United at the same time as Giggs -a 141st, Paul Pogba, has replaced him without yet being a team-mate. Among them incidentally, are a 55-year-old - in Bryan Robson - and teenagers, such as Ezekiel Fryers and Phil Jones, who were not born when Giggs began his marathon career. Indeed, there are a group still younger - Pogba, Larnell Cole and Will and Michael Keane - who were born in 1993 and may soon be team-mates of Giggs, born in 1973. Anyway, the full list is here. I'm indebted to The Guardian who compiled it. By the way, they do include Pogba; I don't, but readers can decide for themselves whether or not be belongs on it. You may also notice two footballers of the same name on it; Giggs has played with two Lee Martins, one the full-back who scored the winning goal in the 1990 FA Cup final and the other a winger who is now at Ipswich. While watching the Liverpool-Brighton game, where Brighton scored three own goals, I got curious. What is the highest number of own goals scored in a game? Has any player got a hat-trick of own goals? Mayank Singh from India asked. Scoring three own goals in a game was an FA Cup record for Brighton. There is evidence of one man with a hat-trick of his own at the wrong end, the unfortunate Stan van den Buys for Germinal Ekeren against Anderlecht in January 1995. The game finished 3-2, so Van den Buys contribution was sadly crucial. But the own-goal record produced one of football's strangest scorelines. In Madagascar in 2002, Stade Olympique L'Emyrne deliberately scored 149 own goals against AS Adema, losing 149-0. They were protesting about refereeing decisions that had gone against them in previous games. It resulted in their coach getting a three-year ban from the Madagascan FA, while four of the players were banned until the end of the season. I've failed to unearth evidence of precisely who scored how many own goals of those 149, so if any readers do know, they are welcome to let me know, but it is a safe assumption at least one player got dozens of them, probably giving them an individual all-time record, as well as in a single game. Some maybe feel it should be disqualified from the record books, though, because, unlike Van den Buys' exploits, they were not accidental.

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