“Which two footballers have played the most matches together? I reckon Jason Dodd and Francis Benali for Southampton must be up there,” asks Mark Williams.
They’re not even close, Mark, but we’ll get back to that shortly. First, Geoff Airey has two long-standing midfielders at Manchester United who knock Benali and Dodd (170 appearances together) into a cocked hat.
“Ryan Giggs played 958 games for United with Paul Scholes playing 718. Even allowing for some form of rotation, it’s fair to suggest that a 75% ratio is more than fair which brings it to over 500 matches.” Close, Geoff. The exact figure is 479 but there are teammates who have played more matches alongside each other.
Tom Aldous has done most of the hard work for us on this one. “Dodd actually played with Matt Le Tissier more often,” he writes. Indeed, 202 times, while Le Tissier also made 209 appearances alongside Francis Benali. “And my non-exhaustive research has led to some famous combos that have played together far more than those two.” Tom and Jordi Gómez helpfully sent in lists, combined below. We’ve added a few more, such as Giggs-Scholes, Callaghan-Hughes and Buffon-Chiellini, but we haven’t been able to find more regular teammates than Sepp Maier and Gerd Müller.
Sepp Maier and Gerd Müller (Bayern Munich/West Germany) – 612 games
Maier and Franz Beckenbauer (Bayern Munich/West Germany) – 605 games
John Terry and Frank Lampard (Chelsea/England) – 581 games
Maier and Georg Schwarzenbeck (Bayern Munich/West Germany) – 578 games
Sandro Mazzola and Giacinto Facchetti (Inter/Italy) – 576 games
Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher (Liverpool/England) – 570 games
Xavi and Carles Puyol (Barcelona/Spain) – 564 games
Müller and Beckenbauer (Bayern Munich/West Germany) – 551 games
Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta (Milan/Italy) – 550 games
Müller and Schwartzenbeck (Bayern Munich/West Germany) – 517 games
Iker Casillas and Raúl (Real Madrid/Spain) – 505 games
Manuel Sanchís and Míchel (Real Madrid/Spain) – 486 games
Giuseppe Bergomi and Walter Zenga (Inter/Italy) – 486 games
Franco Baresi and Mauro Tassotti (Milan/Italy) – 481 games
Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes (Manchester United) – 479 games
Ray Clemence and Emlyn Hughes (Liverpool/England) – 475 games
Ian Callaghan and Emlyn Hughes (Liverpool/England) – 463 games
Dino Zoff and Roberto Bettega (Juventus/Italy) – 454 games
Gigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus/Italy) – 423 games
The policing of keepers
“In 1980, a policeman interrupted the Colchester v Millwall match and cautioned Millwall’s Mel Blyth for using strong language and potentially inciting the crowd,” writes Jason Jandu. “Are there any other cases of the police taking similar intervention during a match?”
Paul Wigley will field this one. “Swansea’s goalkeeper Willy Guéret was arrested and cautioned by Greater Manchester police in 2005 for a ‘public order offence’ following the Swans’ promotion from League Two at Bury’s Gigg Lane. The Frenchman was celebrating on top of what is best described as a UPVC conservatory which formed part of the main stand following the obligatory mass pitch invasion. Despite warnings he continued until dragged away by GMP’s finest. This led to Welsh chants of ‘Free Willy’ around the streets of Bury.”
Guéret was not detained for long, securing his freedom from Bury police station after the payment of an £80 fixed penalty fine. “It won’t go any further,” said the Swans’ manager, Kenny Jackett. “The police were very good once everything had settled down and we had actually got away from the ground. Travelling back from Manchester on the coach, everybody had to come to the front of the coach and sing a song on the microphone. Willy sang Please Release Me.”
And then there is the case of Hans Segers at Woking, which Stu Joslin flags up. Getty Images’ caption from May 1997 recalls: “Segers is lectured by a policeman after he reacted to taunts from fans after Woking had scored during the Dorchester versus Woking FA Trophy third-round match. Woking won 3-2.”
“In my isolation boredom I’ve been sorting through my old football shirts and packing and labelling them by season (sad but true),” begins Michael Pilcher. “On my research I noticed that Gillingham – who usually play in blue – wore a red centenary home shirt in 2012-13, which they then recycled as their away shirt in 2013-14 when they went back to their traditional blue for home games. Are there many other examples of clubs wearing a shirt for home games that was subsequently used as their official away shirt?”
“In 2014-15, Cardiff City swapped home and away shirts mid-season,” writes Will Padmore. “They started the season with a red home kit, but halfway through it the fans were successful in their campaign to return to blue home shirts; the away kit became the home, with the red moving to the away choice.”
Mike Meehall Wood takes us to Spotland: “Let me venture Rochdale’s centenary top from 2007-08. For one season only, we wore a black and white shirt, in tribute to the original Dale top of 1908. It proved so popular that the following season, we incorporated it into the regular dark blue kit, adopting the Internazionale-esque blue-and-black-striped shirt that we still sport to this day.”
Aidan Watts-Fawkes rounds things off down under. “Melbourne Heart were an A-League expansion club for the 2010-11 season and wore red-and-white stripes as the home kit for their first four years. But the takeover of the club by City Football Group in 2014 prompted a change to a white Manchester City template jersey (2014-15, 2015-16) and then the City sky blue. The red-and-white stripes has remained as the away jersey for all but two seasons since and is the third kit this season. It’s much-loved by fans and many, me included, want it back as our home kit. With the two Melbourne clubs playing in the same stadium, the red and white was a point of difference to Melbourne Victory’s navy blue. But now we’re sky blue and treated as an arm of a global football conglomerate. In a city which prides itself on its individuality, becoming Manchester City Lite was a slap in the face.”
“Peter Crouch and Dimitar Berbatov are exactly the same age, both born on 30 January 1981,” noted Matthew Page in January 2007. “If the suggested transfer of Crouch to Spurs goes through, will this be the first such occurrence of a strike partnership being exactly the same age?”
Not quite, Matthew. The beanpole pairing would be one of a rather exclusive club, currently populated by the Dutch duo Ruud van Nistelrooy and Patrick Kluivert, who were both born on 1 July 1976. Interestingly, during the pair’s time up front (on Van Nistelrooy’s debut in 1998, in fact), they played alongside Edwin van der Sar and Phillip Cocu, who themselves arrived into the world on 29 October 1970.
Can you help?
“Has any player actually injured themselves while taking a dive in an effort to win a free-kick or penalty?” asks Steve Morris.
“Other than actual caps, what do international players get given in terms of items of clothing or mementos each time they play for their countries?” wonders Mark Jones. “Any weird ones out there?”
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