“Grant Leadbitter scored the winning penalty against Peterborough for Sunderland the other week, his first goal since returning to the club,” tweeted Craig a couple of weeks ago. “It was 5,111 days after his original debut goal. Have any other players gone longer between debut goals for a club?” Not many, but there are a few examples.
5,421: Both Tom Aldous and Richard Harland suggest Wayne Rooney, whose name was remembered when he scored for Everton against Arsenal on 9 October 2002, and whose second debut goal came on 12 August 2017 against Stoke.
5,532: Sam Ruddick, meanwhile, has another suggestion: “I doubt this is the record but Lee Clark scored his debut goal for Newcastle on 10 November 1990 in a 2-1 defeat away to Wolves. He scored his second debut goal for Newcastle on 2 January 2006 at home in a 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough.”
6,167: “I would like to nominate the Dark Blue legend Neil McCann,” mails Mike Falconer. “As a promising young winger, he scored his first goal for Dundee on 26 March 1994. Nearly 17 years later, with the club in administration and struggling to put out a team, he came out of retirement and netted a last-minute winner against Raith Rovers, on 12 February 2011.”
7,412: Tom Aldous also suggests Jari Litmanen, who scored his first goal for HJK Helsinki on 23 March 1991 against OTP. After leaving for MyPa in 1992, he did not return until 2011, scoring his second debut goal on 6 August against JJK Jyvaskyla. In that second spell, he only bagged once more – after 108 minutes of the Cup final, to put his team 1-0 up; they went on to win 2-0.
And the Óscar goes to …
“Joachim Löw has led Germany in no less than 186 matches. Is this a record in international football?” wonders Bogdan Kotarlic.
Dara O’Reilly has us covered for a one-team manager: “Jogi Löw is the record-holder for consecutive matches in international management for one national team, but he still lags behind current Uruguay manager Óscar Tabárez, who has managed Uruguay for either 211 or 217 international games, depending on whether or not you count their Olympic team, in two stints. He managed Uruguay for 34 games from 1988-90, and after his reappointment in 2006 has managed a further 177 internationals and six Olympics matches.”
Swift international promotions
“Has a footballer ever captained their country on debut?” asks Andy Gomez.
“Of course!” says David Brown. “Every captain of every team playing its first international.” Yes, very good. William Jansen has a more specific suggestion:
“In 2005 Denmark played Finland in a friendly. When our captain Jon Dahl Tomasson was substituted, he handed the armband to the debuting Rasmus Würtz with the instruction to pass it on to vice-captain Thomas Gravesen. In a bit of light hazing, Gravesen mock-refused to take the armband off Würtz, who then one-upped Gravesen by putting on the armband himself and playing the rest of the game as captain which Gravesen, to his credit, had a good laugh about.”
Likewise Adam Ruszkowski: “My brain immediately jumped to Port Vale cult hero Anthony Griffith. In 2011, whilst playing for the Vale, Griffith was called up to the Montserrat national team as it was the country of his father’s birth – though he was born in Huddersfield himself. He was immediately made captain for their 2014 World Cup qualifying preliminary round tie against Belize. Not only had he never played for the national side before, he’d never even visited the island. Unfortunately, he couldn’t prevent a 5-2 loss against Belize in the first leg, nor a 3-1 loss in the second.”
Second-tier England reunions
Jim Hughes emails: “Ignoring the Wayne Rooney angle (because nobody likes an obvious answer) the most recent example I could find was Tammy Abraham and Jake Livermore facing off when Aston Villa played West Brom on 16 February 2019, having previously both started for England against Germany in a goalless draw on 10 November 2017.”
Unusual club jobs (2)
“On the subject of unusual jobs at football clubs, Bohemians in Dublin appointed a poet in residence in 2015,” writes Richard Smith.
Bohs signed up Lewis Kenny to write poems “about the club, Dalymount Park, football and the local community, which will be published in the club’s match-day programmes”. In return, the 21-year-old received a VIP season ticket. Here’s a short film Lewis made for RTÉ about his beloved local side.
“I’m sure that I remember hearing about a player that was arrested after stealing something on the pitch during a match,” Simon Keast mused in August 2010. “Did it actually happen and, if so, who was the player in question?”
Your memory does not deceive you Simon, this was a genuine theft that took place in a league match between two Uruguayan sides back in 1991. The crook was a Peñarol defender by the name of Goncalves and his victim was one Julio Dely Valdés, who played up front for Nacional at the time but would subsequently turn out for a number of European clubs including Cagliari, PSG and Málaga.
Back then, though, Dely Valdés was just a flashy young so-and-so with a penchant for expensive jewellery, which he insisted on wearing during matches. On the day of the match in question he had a Mr T-esque host of gold chains hanging from his neck, along with the usual earrings attached to his lobes.
Soon enough he went up for a Nacional corner. Shirts were tugged and body parts grabbed at as players jostled for position. The delivery was cleared and Goncalves flashed a satisfied smile. Well he might – in amongst the confusion the defender had pulled one of Dely Valdés’s chains clean off his neck, before stuffing it swiftly into his sock.
Neither the striker, who still had on a significant weight of jewellery, nor anyone else in the stadium realised what had happened but the incident had been picked up by TV cameras. Dely Valdés was accompanied by police as he confronted Goncalves outside his changing room at full-time.
Goncalves was promptly arrested, offering up a rather pathetic “I don’t know what I was thinking” by way of defence. He was freed from police custody, however, after he returned the chain.
Can you help?
“Axel Tuanzebe holds a world record for Hungry Hungry Hippos,” writes Luke Kelly. “Are there other footballers who have similar non-sporting world records?”
“In the 2012-13 season, Anderlecht missed 19 penalties,” writes Alec Cordolcini. “Are there other teams that have done worse?”
“What’s the biggest defeat suffered by a team in a title-winning season?” asks Stefan Glosby.
“In January 1987, Mike Newell, Brian Stein and Mick Harford all scored in Luton’s 3-0 FA Cup win over Liverpool,” notes Steven Manfredi. “The three of them went on to manage the club individually, but also collectively in 2003-04. Newell was manager, Harford assistant and Stein first-team coach. Has this happened anywhere else?”
“In the recent Merseyside derby, [Joe] Gomez and [Michael] Keane played. Are there any other examples of fixtures with multiple band names featuring in the line-ups?” asks Philip Rebbeck.