Has a player played more games in a league season than their team?

Guardian sport
·6-min read
<span>Photograph: Norman Quicke/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Norman Quicke/Getty Images

Giving more than 100%

“Beitar Jerusalem midfielder Yarden Shua has made 27 league appearances this season, even though Beitar have only played 26 games,” explains Simon Burnton. “He played two games for Maccabi Haifa before the Israeli league’s lockdown in September, but when he moved to the capital Beitar had only played once. Has anyone previously played more games in a league season than their team?”

Yes, Simon, yes they have. “Alan Mullery made 34 appearances for Fulham in 1963-64 before transferring to Tottenham, where he made a further nine appearances,” recalls Mark Kluth. “That gave him a total of 43 in a 42-game season.”

Fixtures were staggered or postponed more often back in the day, which increased the opportunity for players to give more than 100%. “In 1970-71 Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson played 29 games in the First Division for Newcastle,” mails Andy Kelly. “He then joined West Ham midway through the season and played 14 games for them, so that’s 43 appearances in a 42-game season. Then, in 1974-75, Dick Habbin went one (or maybe five) better. He played 27 games in the Fourth Division for Reading, and then a further 21 games for Rotherham, giving him 48 appearances in a 46-game season.” Happily for him, Rotherham were promoted while Reading missed out (again)>

That’s impressive, but Richard Hudson can go one better. “Terry Austin played 49 league games in 1978-79: 33 for Walsall and 16 for Mansfield,” writes Richard. “This was a record as late as the 1990s for single-season league appearances. It may still be.”

And finally, one from the smoke rings of the Knowledge’s mind: Henrik Larsson joined Manchester United on loan from Helsingborgs on 1 January 2007 and made seven league appearances, before returning to his parent club to play a further 22 games, giving him a total of 29 relative to Helsingborgs’ 26, albeit across different leagues.

Retrained goalkeepers

“Are there any players that have retrained as a goalkeeper, or vice versa, during their career?” asks Murray Rankin. Well, David Warriston advises that in 1968, Bobby Clark – of Aberdeen and Scotland – was dropped after his team were beaten 6-2 and 5-1 in consecutive matches. This prompted him to give up his gloves and he played a few games at centre-back, but by 1970 he was back in net and winning the Skol Cup, before setting a then world record of 12 consecutive clean sheets.

Also in touch is James Irwin. “I submit Hull City and Northern Ireland striker Josh Magennis. Born in my hometown of Bangor, Magennis was originally a goalie at Belfast club Glentoran and subsequently at Cardiff under Dave Jones” – he was named as a goalkeeping substitute in a League Cup match against Liverpool in 2007, adds Dara O’Reilly – “and for reasons that are not entirely clear, Cardiff then made him a striker and he has remained one ever since.”

Matthew Rudd nominates Ian McKechnie. “The legendary Hull goalkeeper was first-choice stopper at Boothferry Park between 1966 and 1973, and is famous for his love of oranges, which Tigers fans would throw into his net prior to games. He was signed by Arsenal as an outside-left, but after filling a gap during training, he was seen as a natural goalkeeper and never looked back.

And then there’s West Brom’s Gordon Nisbet – Lydia of the Baggies Collective takes up the story: “He made his debut at Coventry in 1969, and had a nightmare as they lost 3-1. That was his last first-team start in goal, though he would later face a penalty for injured keeper John Osborne, then swap jerseys again. But he became a useful centre-forward in the reserves before Don Howe arrived and converted him to a full-back.”

Kits inspired by musicians – the difficult second album

Last week, we noted that City’s 2019-20 away kit incorporated the Haçienda nightclub’s famous yellow and black stripes – which upset Ben Kelly, who designed them. Now, a similarly upset Kevin Cummins gets in touch: “City didn’t just copy the Haçienda stripes, they licensed their use from the copyright holder, Peter Hook. It would have been easy for City to use the design free of charge, seeing as yellow and black stripes are a standard universal design for hazard/barricade tape, but they wanted to mention the Haçienda in the marketing of the kit. Peter Hook donated the license fee to a children’s charity.”

Also getting in touch is Stephen Sumner – presumably no relation to Bernard – who chides: “You missed Port Vale’s current home kit which was co-designed by Robbie Williams.”

Theo Robinson is loving Vale instead.
Theo Robinson is loving Vale instead. Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Knowledge archive

“Are any football grounds named after people even less recently alive than Skopje’s Philip II stadium?” tweeted Kat Petersen, who points out that the 33,460-capacity stadium in the Macedonian capital is named after a monarch who lived from 382 BC until his assassination 46 years later in 336 BC.

“No” seems to be the short answer, but a couple of readers have presented some fascinating answers that are worthy of inclusion nonetheless. Over to you Mungo Cullinan. “I’ve found two pretty shaky (and also incorrect) suggestions, but I’m sending them in anyway,” writes Mungo. “Home to AEK Larnaca FC, the GSZ Stadium (full name Gymnastic Club Zeno Stadium) in Cyprus is named after a gymnastics club, which in turn took its name from Hellenic philosopher Zeno of Citium. Now I know the question asked specifically for grounds named after people and this here is a ground named after a gymnastics club named after a person, but it doesn’t really matter anyway since Zeno was born two years after our Philip II died. My other incorrect-but-oh-so-close one is Alexandria Stadium in Egypt, named after the city founded by Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). It may be shared by Union Alexandria and Smouha SC, but I’m not certain. Interestingly, Philip II was Alexander’s dad. Small world.”


Can you help?

“During the 1987-88 Uefa Cup, Espanyol reached the final having beaten Milan in the second round and Internazionale in the third round, before losing to Bayer Leverkusen – who had beaten Barcelona in the quarter-finals” writes Daniel Speda. “Is this the only time both finalists in a tournament have eliminated two teams from the same city?”

“According to Wikipedia,” writes Jim Patience, “Bob Latchford has managed the rare feat of scoring twice in a top flight match against his sibling” – his first home goals for Everton came against the club he left to join them, Birmingham City, who had his brother Dave in net, though his brother Peter was West Brom’s goalie at the time. Who else has done this?! Surely nobody in England?”

“If, as seems increasingly likely, Fulham are relegated, next season will be the fifth in a row that we’ve played in a different division,” laments my friend and yours, Richard Hirst. “I don’t suppose that’s a record, but does anyone know what is?”