What is the longest sequential run of points in a football league table?

<span>Photograph: FA</span>
Photograph: FA

“The Sunday before last, a draw in Tottenham v Aston Villa would have left the top five Premier League teams on 30-29-28-27-26 points,” notes Christopher Zorn. “What are the longest and highest such sequences of points that have occurred?”

Ollie Watkins’ winning goal for Aston Villa at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium may have prevented a good bit of trivia, but our readers have found plenty of other examples.

Let’s start with this, from Gareth Thomas, the League Two table on 24 February 2021. The top 10 were each separated by a point – particularly impressive as it was after 28 games.

1 Cambridge United 52 pts
2 Forest Green Rovers 51
Cheltenham Town 50
Morecambe 49
Tranmere Rovers 48
Newport County 47
Exeter City 46
Salford City 45
Bolton Wanderers 44
Carlisle United 43

Ben Clay highlights another sequential top 10 later the same year, this time after 13 rounds of the 2. Bundesliga season.

These top 10s are very impressive, but how about an entire league? This is a contender for greatest Knowledge answer of all time. “Surely nothing can top this from the Finnish top flight in the first week of May 2015,” tweets Wayne Ziants.

The above examples were all mid-season. Knowledge regular Chris Roe has looked at end-of-season tables in the top four English divisions to see if there is anything similar. “There is a clear winner,” writes Chris. “Back in 1951-52 in the top tier, Blackpool finished in ninth place with 45 points. They were the first team in a sequence of 10 teams all the way down to Middlesbrough with 36 points in 18th place.

“This sequence could have been even longer as the teams from fifth to eighth were also separated by a single point with the longer sequence only being spoilt by the 45 being shared by the eighth and ninth-placed teams. The next best sequence, shared by five separate seasons, had only seven teams in the sequence.”

Late Premier League sackings

“What is the latest in a Premier League season that the first manager has been sacked?” asks Jonas Sørensen.

Like the rest of the world, Jonas knew that Paul Heckingbottom was about to receive an official Sheffield United headed P45. His sacking was confirmed on Tuesday 5 December, which makes it the sixth-latest of the Premier League era. This is what happens when Watford stop yo-yoing.

There are only two Premier League seasons in which no manager has lost his job before the turn of the year. In 1995-96, Bolton’s co-manager Roy McFarland was sacked on 2 January, leaving his partner Colin Todd to oversee relegation. And as anyone who has watched Premier League Years more times than is probably healthy, Ian Porterfield has a unique place in English football history.

Beware the Ides of February. On 15 February 1993, Porterfield became the first manager of the Premier League era to lose his job when he was given his cards by Ken Bates and replaced by Dave Webb. Chelsea were 11th, above Arsenal, Liverpool and the champions Leeds among others, although they were also on a wretched run of 11 league games without a win. Bates reportedly announced the news on Chelsea’s official telephone service.

Porterfield was the only manager who lost his job in that first season. We’ll happily bet the farm that Heckingbottom won’t be similarly alone. English football hasn’t always been a reality TV show, so we’re sure there are many seasons in the old Division One when no manager lost their job until March or beyond. We’ll try to do that research for next week’s column.

Which club has had most England managers?

“After the sad news about Terry Venables, I was thinking back on his difficult time at Leeds, then more fondly of his time as national coach,” writes First Touch Phil. “Leeds have had four managers who at some point in their career have managed the English national team. Is this a record?”

We’re very happy to say that Ben Raza has done the hard yards on this one.

“By my reckoning, once caretaker stints are included, the various England managers have managed 83 clubs between them. Four of them have been in charge of Leeds (Don Revie, Terry Venables, Howard Wilkinson and Sam Allardyce), but that’s matched by Crystal Palace (Venables, Peter Taylor, Allardyce and Roy Hodgson), Manchester City (Joe Mercer, Kevin Keegan, Stuart Pearce and Sven Goran-Eriksson and Stuart Pearce), and Newcastle (Keegan, Bobby Robson, Allardyce and Steve McClaren).

“Can we split them on goal difference? Yes, as Palace employed both Venables and Hodgson for two spells each. So Leeds don’t quite make it. [Palace were also captained by Gareth Southgate, which is another potential tie-breaker – Knowledge Ed] For what it’s worth, 21 clubs have employed more than one former/future England manager, ranging from European giants such as Roma and Barcelona to QPR and Notts County.

Fulham and Middlesbrough have each employed a trio of former and/or future England bosses. And while Sven’s and Roy’s early CVs offer a taste of some exotic names you probably haven’t heard of, God bless Peter Taylor for beginning his management career in the 1980s Southern League, rising through the divisions until he got one game as England boss in November 2000, and then diligently working his way back down the leagues.

“He’s just left Maldon & Tiptree in the Isthmian North Division, but I like to think this is part of a masterplan to take over England again, for two games this time, in the late-2030s.”

The fastest scorers at both ends

“Is Son Heung-min’s goal/own-goal combo nine minutes into the match against Manchester City the fastest ever?” asks Giles Skerry.

Nope! In the Premier League, Gareth Barry scored at both ends seven minutes into the match when his Aston Villa side lost 4-3 at home to Charlton Athletic in May 1999. If you think that’s embarrassing, wait until you see the assist for his equaliser.

Can anyone beat that? If so, get in touch.

Knowledge archive

“I make it about three minutes and 40 seconds between Sébastien Haller’s own goal and his goal against Benfica,” tweeted Nayson in 2022, and yes we did dig this out because of Son’s eventful weekend in Manchester. “What’s the smallest gap between a player scoring at both ends of the pitch?”

There are many members of the “scored at both ends” club but finding a player who has done it quicker than the Ajax striker did is tricky. Robert Davies wrote in with a player who matched Haller’s three minutes, but we can’t confirm whether he was faster or slower. Either way, it was an eventful match for Walsall’s Conor Wilkinson in the 3-3 draw with Newport on 1 January this year. Here’s the rundown:

52 min: Came on as sub
53 min: Scored with first touch
56 min: Scored own goal
90+5min: Scored equaliser

We also remember Troy Deeney going from hero to villain within three minutes when he equalised for Watford against Manchester United in the 87th minute in November 2015, before putting through his own net in the 90th. And a doff of the cap to Tammy Abraham, who scored a hat-trick for Chelsea before adding an own goal 14 minutes later during their 5-2 win over Wolves in 2019.

2023 update: Son Heung-min smashed the above to smithereens by scoring at both ends in the space of 137 seconds during Spurs’ 3-3 draw at Manchester City.


Can you help?

“Shukura have just ended a tough season in the Georgian top flight with three consecutive 9-0 defeats. Surely this is a record?” asks Tom Wright.

“Watching The Big Match Revisited, I noticed the Brighton goalkeeper Graham Moseley was not wearing gloves. It certainly didn’t seem to help his performance much. September 1980 seems fairly late to me for this to be the case, but who was the last No 1 to regularly go without them?” asks Liam Hughes.

“Bristol Rovers have just hired Matt Taylor as their new manager, which makes him the second League One manager with that name – the other is at Shrewsbury. The clubs are scheduled to play each other on 1 April 2024. If the two Matt Taylors are still in a job, would it be the first fixture in which both managers have the same name?” wonders Tom Aldous.

“Manchester United are currently bottom of their Champions League group while being its top scorers with 12 goals in five games. Has a team top-scored in a group at a major tournament and also finished bottom? And has any team managed the same feat over an entire league season?” asks Paul Vickers.

Jack Hinshelwood has recently broken into the Brighton first team. He is the son, grandson and great grandson of professional footballers. Are there any fifth-generation professional footballers?” wonders Jim in Edinburgh.

“Last weekend Lecce’s goalkeeper, the splendidly named Wladimiro Falcone, went up for a corner and won a penalty after he was fouled by Bologna’s Ricardo Calafiori. The only other example I can remember is Paul Robinson, who was kicked in the face in the opposition box. Which other goalkeepers have won penalties?” muses Kári Tulinius.

“When he won the UK Snooker Championship, Ronnie O’Sullivan became the oldest and youngest winner of the title with 30 years between his first and most recent victory. Have any footballers ever won the same championship/title/cup 30 years apart? And do any players hold the distinction of being both the oldest and youngest winners of any titles/awards?” asks Danny Payne.

“Chelsea have had their captain sent off in consecutive games (Reece James, Conor Gallagher),” notes Jesse Pajwani. “When was the last time this happened, and what is the longest streak of captains being sent off for the same club? Bonus points if the captains are different each time!”