Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Norman Hubbard is ESPN FC's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and he'll try to answer as many as possible.
My beloved Southampton have finally returned to the Premier League and our visit to Stoke at the end of the year is going to feel familiar. Not only do they have the same kit as us, but if Danny Higginbotham, Rory Delap, Kenwyne Jones, and Peter Crouch all play, we will be facing four players who used to play for us.
My question is this: what is the most number of former players an English club has faced in a single game? (Let's only count someone as a former player if they actually made a competitive appearance for that team; so exclude players who may have been signed by but never played for a team.) Dennis Crawford from Canada asked.
The chances are that Southampton won't face four former Saints - Higginbotham is currently out on loan at Ipswich while Delap is featuring less regularly - but Stoke do provide an answer in a meeting of two clubs in red-and-white stripes and there is a sizeable ex-Sunderland contingent at the Britannia Stadium.
Last season, Delap, Jones, Dean Whitehead and Danny Collins faced their former club; two years earlier, Thomas Sorsensen, Higginbotham, Whitehead and Delap did. Tony Pulis has had six old Sunderland players in his squad, without them all taking on their previous employers in the same game. In another reunion, Pulis picked four former Spurs - Crouch, Etherington, Jonathan Woodgate and Wilson Palacios - against Tottenham last season.
I can find other examples of a quartet - Paddy Kenny, Shaun Derry, Clint Hill and Mikele Leigertwood for QPR against Crystal Palace in 2010; Paul Konchesky, Matthew Etherington, Teddy Sheringham and Bobby Zamora for West Ham against Tottenham in 2005; Konchesky, Zamora, Danny Murphy and Simon Davies for Fulham against Spurs in 2007; Pedro Mendes, Sol Campbell, Sean Davis and Noe Pamarot for Portsmouth, also including future Spur Niko Kranjcar, against Tottenham in the same year - without finding a five.
By the way, Sunderland twice had four former Manchester United players taking on Sir Alex Ferguson's side during Roy Keane's reign but Paul McShane fails Dennis' test: he never made a first-team appearance in his time at Old Trafford.
Has any team ranked outside the top seeds (for example, not in Pot 1) won the World Cup? Jisheng Long asked.
Yes, twice. The first was perhaps the most remarkable. West Germany were not among the eight seeded teams in 1954 but, in a strange format, beat the seeded Turks twice and lost to favourites Hungary to advance from the group stage and went to defeat Hungary 3-2 in the final.
Meanwhile, Argentina were in the second group of seeds in 1986, meaning they were drawn in the same group as defending champions Italy. Carlos Bilardo's side provided a warning of what was to come by topping their group, sending Italy into a last-16 meeting with France that they lost, before going on to defeat Germany 3-2 in the final. As that indicates, the format changed over the years: in 1954, there were eight seeds and eight others, whereas by 1986, the 24 teams were divided into four pools, of top, second, third and fourth seeds.
In addition, it is worth remembering that the hosts are automatically seeded but, based on their FIFA ranking and record in previous tournaments, the France side of 1998 would not have been top seeds. Depending upon the criteria, the Argentina team of 1978 might not have been either.
Meanwhile, between 1958 and 1970, there were not seeds as such but teams put in pools for geographical reasons. In 1970, that meant defending champions England and eventual winners Brazil were in the same group whereas, under other formats, both would have probably been top seeds.
To give an indication what that meant, in the 1966 World Cup, teams were drawn from four groups - South American, European, Latin European and Rest of the World (North Korea, Mexico, Bulgaria and Switzerland). Within that, it was feasible that the strongest side from each section could have been drawn together. In the four World Cups when seeding was geographical, Brazil won three times and England once.
Which team has won most points available (in percentage terms) in the English top tier?Sadiq Ibrahaim asked.
That particular distinction belongs to England's first champions. Preston North End won the inaugural title in 1889 with 40 points from 22 games, or 90.9% of the potential total of 44. As it was until 1981, a victory was worth two points then. Even where the current three-points-for-a-win system retrospectively applied, Preston would have ended with 58 from a possible 66, or 87.8% of the potential total.