“Which great goalscorer suffered the longest goal drought?” asks @iisskaa on Twitter.
Tom Aldous gets the ball rolling by drawing our attention to a Match of the Day pundit. “I’m sure I won’t be the only person with this one but Alan Shearer went 12 games without scoring for England in the leadup to Euro 96. Of course he put that right in the opener against Switzerland.” He went on to score five goals in the tournament and went home with the Golden Boot.
Beyond that, Fernando Torres’s spell at Chelsea is perhaps best remembered as one long goal drought, but within that there was a 24-game scoreless streak, mercifully ended in March 2012. And a decade before that Diego Forlán, one of the finest goalscorers of his generation, did even better by going 26 games – and nine long months – without scoring before finally breaking his Manchester United duck against Maccabi Haifa.
Ian Rush took 10 games to score his “first” Liverpool goal when he returned to the club after a year at Juventus. And going back to England, Wayne Rooney will always remember the 2009-10 season as perhaps his best ever: he scored 35 goals, won the title and was named the PFA and FWA player of the year. Yet over the back end of that campaign and the summer’s World Cup he endured a bleak stretch of more than 18 hours without a goal for club or country.
Leaving it late
“What is the latest date in a season that a team has won a league title?” asks Richard Smith.
“I believe I have the answer,” declares Liam Togher. “I would be reasonably confident that no European season running an autumn-to-summer calendar has been won later than Real Madrid’s 2002-03 La Liga triumph, secured on 23 June with a 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao.
“Two years previously, Roma weren’t far behind in waiting to clinch the Serie A title, which came on 17 June 2001 with a 3-1 defeat of Parma in a match that was temporarily halted due to a pitch invasion from ecstatic home fans at the Stadio Olimpico. Furthermore, Real Madrid won La Liga in 2006-07 on 17 June with another 3-1 home victory, this time against Real Mallorca on a night when the late José Antonio Reyes scored twice and David Beckham made his final appearance for the club.”
Not them again …
Many moons ago (OK, at the start of March) we looked at derbies spanning a number of divisions. Carl O’Reilly has got in touch to offer another contender:
“I am not sure if it qualifies as either a derby or a long-standing rivalry, but the Luton Town and Oxford United fixture has spanned the top five flights of English Football. In the 80’s they were both in Division 1 (top tier), with the fixture returning to the second tier in 1992-93.
“In 1999, the fixture was in Division 2 (then the third tier), with a fourth-tier meeting to follow in 2001. Then, in 2009-10, the teams met in the Conference. I believe this is the only fixture to span the current top-five divisions of English football.”
The two clubs are 45 miles apart, but there is a historic rivalry, bolstered by those trips up and down the league ladder. They have also met in the League Cup, EFL Trophy and Zenith Data Systems Cup, making a total of eight different competitions. Oxford must be sick of playing Luton: they’ve won five of their 27 meetings since May 1987.
“I was wondering if an own goal has ever been intentionally conceded by a player in protest or out of anger at his own club/fans/manager?” asked Thomas Houghton in October 2012.
This is one of those bits where we find a few stories that don’t quite fulfil the criteria so as to avoid leaving a blank space. There was talk that William Gallas had managed to force a move from Chelsea to Arsenal by threatening to score own goals if they made him stay but, though some performances suggest sabotage is not beyond him, Gallas always denied the accusation. In the 1950s Brian Clough accused his Middlesbrough teammates of deliberately conceding goals in order to fleece the bookmakers. That (and the fact that he kept scoring enough goals to even matches up) made him an unpopular man in the dressing room.
There have been plenty of protest own goals scored – 149 in one game, in fact, but the target of the players’ ire was the referee. In 2002 AS Adema beat the reigning Madagascan champions Stade Olympique de L’Emyrne 149-0 after SOE’s players spent the whole game putting the ball into their own net during the final game of a round-robin title play-off. In the preceding game, SOE had been put out of the running for the title when the referee awarded a dubious late penalty with which DSA Antananarivo equalised. The coach and four players received suspensions and stadium bans, which at least spared them the agitation of fans who wanted their money back.
Can you help?
“Now there is a very real possibility of the Premier League season being cancelled – possibly by simply awarding Liverpool the title or by voiding the whole season – I feel it’s high time to ask about previous cancelled seasons, such as the Football League seasons of 1915-19 and 1939-46 and also the 1942 and 1946 World Cups – who would have been likely winners of those cancelled titles?” asks Ásgeir H Ingólfsson.
“Of course you can look at the champions before and after, but I’m curious to know if any football historians have dug deeper, analysed it based on what teams/countries had promising young squads and/or robust finances just before the wars. And also based on those competitions that still did take place, such as the Copa América.”
“Which player has won the most competitions?” asks Glenn Coburn. “Surely James Rodríguez must be up there; he has won 23 trophies in 14 different competitions.”
• Send your questions and answers to [email protected] or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU.