Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Ask Norman: Left-footers and big crowds
Norman Hubbard is Soccernet's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to email@example.com and he'll try to answer as many as possible.
When Chelsea took on Manchester City, they ended up with SIX (primarily) left-footed players on the pitch - Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Yuri Zhirkov, Florent Malouda, Daniel Sturridge and Josh McEachran. Would you happen to know if there's been a record for the number of left-footers played in a single game by a top-flight team? Or has there been a team with eleven left-footers? asked Ian Yee.
I'm not aware of any records, partly because it is something that isn't quite a matter of fact. For instance, Louis Saha has scored penalties with both left and right foot in his career while Aston Villa's Ashley Young is naturally right-footed but mainly uses the left. So it's not quite as simple as calling Phil Mickelson a left-handed golfer or Brian Lara a left-handed batsman.
However, there are other examples of teams fielding six left-footers. In the 2008-09 season, Middlesbrough started their Boxing Day defeat to Everton with Andrew Taylor, Emanuel Pogatetz, Julio Arca, Stewart Downing and Mido on the pitch while Adam Johnson then replaced the right-footed Jeremie Aliadiere.
The Ipswich team who finished fifth in the 2000-01 season also had six left-footers on the field at times, including their August defeat to Tottenham - goalkeeper Richard Wright, plus Hermann Hreidarsson, Gary Croft, Mark Venus, Jamie Clapham and Marcus Stewart.
Go back a bit further and Liverpool fielded six of Robbie Fowler, Patrik Berger, Mark Kennedy, John Barnes, Stig Inge Bjornebye, Dominic Matteo, Neil Ruddock and Phil Babb in the same side, though I've yet to find an occasion when seven of them were on the field at the same time.
If any readers are aware of more examples, let me know and I'll include them in a future column.
When's the last time Liverpool finished in the bottom half of the top flight? asked Jacob Geiger.
Great question. It was in 1953-54 when they didn't just finish in the lower half of Division One, they came bottom. Don Welsh's team ended up 22nd, winning just nine of their 42 matches and conceding 97 goals. Since then they have finished in the top half of whichever league they have been in for the last 56 seasons. I'm pretty sure no English club can rival that record.
Obviously, however, Liverpool have been a lower overall position in the league ladder - they finished 11th in Division Two in 1954-55 and spent seven seasons at that level before winning promotion under Bill Shankly. In 49 years in Division One/Premier League, they have never come below eighth, where they ended one campaign under Shankly in 1963 and another under Graeme Souness in 1994.
I understand the Spurs team of 1960-61 still holds the record of 11 wins from the start of the season. For how long were they unbeaten and what is their complete record for the season? I also vaguely remember they had the most number of wins as well. Is that correct? I understand Arsenal went unbeaten for a season, but how did the two teams' win percentage compare? asked Kah Leong.
First of all, you're right. The 11 games in which Bill Nicholson's Double winners triumphed is indeed a top-flight record at the start of a season (Reading won the first 13 games of the 1985-86 campaign in Division Three for the overall record). The 12th game was drawn, 1-1 with Manchester City, but Tottenham didn't lose until their 17th match, a 2-1 December defeat away at Sheffield Wednesday.
Their eventual record was of 31 wins, four draws and seven defeats, taking 66 points (this was in the days of two points per win). And yes, that is a record number of wins, one ahead of the 30 managed by the Liverpool team of 1978-79.
The Arsenal team of 2003-04 were christened "The Invincibles" for completing the season unbeaten in the Premier League. They won 26 of their 38 matches (68.4%) whereas Tottenham's 31 wins (in a longer, 42-game season) meant they came out in 73.8% of matches. I suspect that a statistic quoted more frequently at the Emirates Stadium, however, is that Arsenal lost 0% of matches in that year.
I saw a game at Hampden Park in the late 1940s (I believe) between Rangers & Hibs in the Scottish Cup. The attendance was 147,000 plus. Can you tell me the year and the exact attendance? And was it a record? asked Fred Bridge.
I suspect the game you saw was the 1948 Scottish Cup semi-final when Rangers beat Hibernian 1-0 in front of a crowd of 143,000. High as that was, it isn't a record. Hampden's were set in 1937, with its biggest overall gate being the 149,415 who watched Scotland take on England. The most for a club game was that year's Cup final between Celtic and Aberdeen, which drew a mere 146,433 fans.
Having looked at the Manchester United squad, I've noticed that we have three sets of brothers: Wes and Reece Brown, Rafael and Fabio da Silva and Jonny and Corry Evans. Given that we had the Nevilles playing in the beginning of the decade, what's the most amout of brothers a team has had play for them? asked Andrew in London.
Manchester United do indeed have plenty of family connections although neither Reece Brown nor Corry Evans has debuted for the first team just yet and it is unlikely that all six Browns, da Silvas and Evanses will be on the pitch at the same time.
There is at least one example of three sets of brothers playing for the same club in the same season. The Swansea City side of 1953-54 contained Ivor and Len Allchurch, Cyril and Gilbert Beech and Cliff and Bryn Jones. There is also a case of three brothers - Danny, Rod and Ray Wallace - playing top-flight football in the same Southampton side between 1988 and 1989 before Danny, the oldest of them, joined Manchester United.