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“Hope you can share other such longest gaps in appearances for the same club without leaving,” tweets Chittaranjan following Phil Jones’s return to Manchester United action after a 712-day absence.
Here you go …
745 days: Joe Perry flags up that QPR’s Luke Young was sidelined and struggled with a hip injury from 24 March 2012 until his return on 8 April 2014.
910 days: Rangers’ Ian Durrant was infamously injured by Neil Simpson against Aberdeen on 8 October 1988 and only made it back to the first team on 6 April 1991 (hat tip to David Ferguson). A rivalry between the clubs has sustained itself ever since.
1,120 days: “John Kennedy of Celtic had more than three years between successive appearances for the club,” writes Rhuaraidh Fleming. “He played in the Old Firm derby on 28 March before suffering a horror tackle on his international debut for Scotland on 31 March 2004. He wouldn’t return to action until 22 April 2007.”
1,221 days: Due to an injury crisis, the Wycombe manager, Gareth Ainsworth, brought himself out of retirement to play in their Checkatrade Trophy game against Northampton on 30 August 2016, having hung up his boots at Adams Park on 27 April 2013. “[The appetite to play] never disappears and you always think you can do it,” said Ainsworth. “I probably have to say thanks to my Sunday league team as well because they have kept me pretty fit and I have not let the game go.” Thanks again to Joe for that one.
1,455 days: “At the beginning of the 1984-85 season, the professional players in Spain called for a strike, so the second round was played with amateur and youth players,” recalls Jordi Gómez. “Most of them had their only first-team experience that day, but a few proved their skill and got a chance to play in the seasons that followed. And then there was Luis Milla, who played for Barcelona that day (9 September 1984) at only 18 years old, and had to wait almost four years (3 September 1988) for his next match. If you think that proves great patience and faithfulness to the club, it should be noted that after a year and a half he couldn’t agree contract terms and he left for Real Madrid, no less.”
2,925 days: Lewis Baker made his second Chelsea first-team performance in their FA Cup win over Chesterfield on Saturday. He had previously been given a brief debut appearance in the Blues’ FA Cup victory at Derby on 5 January 2014, before being sent out on eight long-term loan, rather than permanent, deals.
High-scoring aggregate draws in one season
“What is the largest goal tally for two teams combined drawing in both their home and away fixtures in a season? I presume there are examples of say 3-3 and 4-4 but are there any really big tallies where they just got two points?” asks John McDougall.
John Curry gets the ball rolling: “In the old Division One, 1958-59, Spurs drew 1-1 away to Portsmouth in October and 4-4 at home in the following February.” A good start but Clive Denny can go higher. “Charlton may be contenders,” he offers. “Charlton v Middlesbrough finished 6-6 on 22 October 1960 at the Valley, with the return fixture 2-2. More remarkable, but not draws, were the Christmas fixtures between Charlton and Plymouth in 1960. Charlton won 6-4 at the Valley on Boxing Day, then lost 6-4 at Plymouth the very next day. Still just two points apiece.”
Calendar woes (2)
Last week’s column led on footballers appearing on club calendars in years they never even played for the team. But there’s more and it’s very good …
Step forward Donald Vass, who picked up the baton and ran with it for this spectacular thread on the infamous Portsmouth 2013 calendar. “Some context,” he begins. “Pompey were enduring a truly bleak 2012-13 season. We were in administration, on a grim 23-game winless run, and were set to suffer our third relegation in four seasons, eventually finishing 24th to complete our collapse from Premier League to League Two. Crucially, the financial trouble facing the club at the time meant we were desperately short of players. We had a threadbare squad cobbled together with pretty much anyone who was available at the time.
“Academy youngsters, loanees, journeymen on one-month contracts and even 40-year-old coach Ashley Westwood was called out of retirement to make an appearance for a particularly memorable EFL Cup tie at Plymouth. Fifty-five different players made appearances for the club that season. So the calendar was always likely to be a disaster. The club were operating week-to-week, while the product was sent to the printers months in advance. It was already wildly out of date by the time it was unwrapped by fans on Christmas Day … and would only get worse from there.” Here it is in all its glory …
Always enjoy reading @TheKnowledge_GU column, this week featuring disappointing club calendars.
No mention though of surely the worst ever published:
This is the story of the infamous #Pompey 2013 official calendar.
A thread 🧵 https://t.co/s9bbqEbHJv pic.twitter.com/K8mxDcKFIi
— Donald Vass (@donaldvass) January 5, 2022
“Have they ever used an actual hat for the FA Cup draw?” asked Andy Morrison in 2006. “If so, when was it last used, and what kind of hat was it?”
Early draws really did involve headwear; a top hat covered by a handkerchief, to be precise. It was filled with pieces of paper bearing the names of the clubs, with a member of the FA committee delicately lifting a corner of the handkerchief to draw the ties. Bryon Butler’s history of the competition is the only source of information on this arcane ritual, as until the first radio coverage of the draw, in December 1935, it was “barred and bolted against all unofficial comers” – including the press. By then, the bag and ball arrangement was in place. Indeed, the then FA secretary, Sir Stanley Rous, was asked by the BBC to rattle the balls in the bag for dramatic effect.
David Barber, the FA’s historian, suggested that the top hat and handkerchief met their demise in a drive for modernisation around 1914. Nevertheless, phrases such as “in the hat for the next round” will always have their roots in the actual routine of the draw.
Can you help?
@TheKnowledge_GU This ex-footballer passed recently. RIP
Note that he only played for teams beginning with 'B'. Question is, can anyone think of any other footballer who only played for teams with the same letter? pic.twitter.com/cp8EjdXMhG
— PKelly (@paulkellington) December 15, 2021
“I saw recently that Andrea Barzagli has opened a vineyard, and it got me thinking: alongside Andrea Pirlo (wine), Richard Eckersley (oat milk) and Carlo Ancelotti (parmesan), is it possible to put together a team or squad who have a stake in food production?” asks Joe Morris.
@TheKnowledge_GU Just watching the Chelsea FA Cup game and noticed that the two team abbreviations differ by only one alphabetical place. Surely this won’t happen very often? It can’t be beaten, but any others the same or close? pic.twitter.com/VArccT5cax
— james (@_mosef) January 8, 2022
“Has any player had to leave a game after colliding with a referee?” wonders Gerard Parker.
This season will be the 30th season in a row where the English top flight is won by a non-English manager.
Has any other league had such a long run of being won by non-domestic managers?
— Jerry Higgins (@JerryHiggins86) January 11, 2022