“Scott Bain signed for Hibs on loan on the first day of the window and left for Celtic on the last day. Have any other players ever joined and left a club in the same window?” tweets Brian Milne.
The answer, of course, is yes. In the summer of 1980, Clive Allen joined Arsenal from QPR for a fee of £1.25m. He played in three friendlies before joining Crystal Palace’s team of the 80s, in a swap deal which sent Kenny Sansom and his Norman Wisdom impressions in the opposite direction. Ostend Gudgeon reckons this became a Newman-Baddiel running gag, “probably in the Mary Whitehouse Experience”.
James Borg, meanwhile, remembers January 2004, when Liverpool had Jerzy Dudek and Chris Kirkland injured. “So the club brought in veteran Wales goalkeeper Paul Jones on a short-term loan from Southampton. Jones played two games, keeping a clean sheet in the first and conceding two in the second. He returned to Southampton at the end of January.”
And he continues: “In 1998, Coventry bought Croatian international Robert Jarni. However, Real Madrid took a fancy to him after some good displays at that year’s World Cup. They eventually persuaded Coventry to sell him on before he had made any appearances for the Sky Blues.
“That same summer David Unsworth asked to be transferred from West Ham to be closer to his Merseyside home. He signed for Aston Villa, but then (allegedly under pressure from his wife) decided that Birmingham was not close enough, and told Villa he wanted to return to Everton. So Unsworth rejoined the Toffees, having spent just a few weeks at Villa. He is still at Everton today.” This, of course, greatly amused the Villa manager, John Gregory. “It’s quite clear that it’s David’s missus who wears the trousers in their house,” he informed the press. “She refused point-blank to move to the Midlands. In my time as a player it used to be a case of ‘pack the china, love, I’m going to a new club somewhere else in the country’.” How far we done fell.
Finally, Dave Claes points to Dodi Lukebakio, signed in January by Watford. “When Watford declared their interest, he was on loan to Sporting Charleroi from Anderlecht. Charleroi had an option to buy Lukebakio and took it up, paying Anderlecht around £1.35m. Watford then paid around £4.5m for his services, netting Charleroi a tidy profit for a player who was officially theirs for a very short time.”
Extremes of temperature
“Last month’s AFC Under-23 Championship final between Uzbekistan and Vietnam in the Chinese city of Changzhou was played in a blizzard in sub-zero temperatures, with the pitch under a blanket of snow in the first half and two inches of the stuff visible on top of the crossbars. What other finals have been played in similarly extreme weather conditions?” muses Oliver Farry.
Alasdair Brooks responds: “The very first MLS Cup in Foxboro, Massachusetts, in 1996 was played in appallingly wet conditions due to the passing Hurricane Lili. I was at the game and vividly remember the standing pools of water on the pitch. The official highlights video makes it clear just how bad the conditions were.
“Playing a passing game – playing any kind of coherent game – was all but impossible. Most of the goals were scored from crosses in the air rather than passes along the ground simply because the players had no choice. The ball would often come to a dead stop in a pond. Had the match been taking place under almost any under circumstances, it surely would have been postponed but from what I understand, MLS decided it couldn’t afford the PR disaster of postponing its very first championship match. Against all the odds, a minor classic broke out, with DC United coming back from 2-0 down with only 20 minutes left to win via an extra-time golden goal. I didn’t dry out until I was back in Albany.”
“Has any team ever won the FA Cup without playing a single home game, being given an away fixture in every round up to the semis and winning each of those games without a replay?” asked Jon from Leeds in 2003. “Also, has anyone won the FA Cup the hard way, being drawn against top-flight teams in every round, or the easy way, without meeting a single top division club along the way? Obviously FA Cup winners before the advent of proper league divisions don’t count.”
“Sheffield Wednesday came close in 1966,” wrote Chris Hogg. “They were drawn away in every round and won every match at the first attempt, so there were no replays at Hillsborough. And we led 2-0 in the final.” Sadly, what Chris neglected to mention is that the Owls blew their two-goal lead, eventually losing 3-2 to Everton. Close, but no cigar.
The correct answer to both parts of the question is Manchester United, and here’s how they did it. In 1990 they won the FA Cup, beating Nottingham Forest, Hereford, Newcastle and Sheffield United away from home. They then took two matches to see off Oldham and Crystal Palace in the semi-final and final. Both matches were, of course, played on neutral grounds. Of the teams United played, only Forest and Palace were in the top flight.
In 1948, United also won the Cup – beating Aston Villa, Liverpool, Charlton Athletic, Preston, Derby County and Blackpool in the process. According to Chris Haworth: “All opponents were First Division teams at the time. This answer also applies to the first part of the question as well, as Manchester United were unable to play any games at Old Trafford because it was still being rebuilt after the war.”
Can you help?
“Has there ever been a longer acrostic spelled out in a table than the oft-recurring ‘TABLE’ from the Premier League this season – or ‘LAWNS’ from League Two?” asks Marco Jackson.
“Exeter City’s stadium goes by the same name as that of Newcastle United’s (albeit without the apostrophe),” notes Ben Balmford. “What is the most common name for a football stadium? And what’s the furthest distance between any two of the same name?”
“Have two clubs have ever swapped managers?” wonders Phil Grey.
“Back in the early 1980s Bristol City were on Match of the Day (I believe it was against Everton),” writes Gerry Prewett. “Having kicked off the first half, City striker Keith Fear cheekily looked to take the kick-off in the second also. No one in the ground noticed. It was brought to the nation’s attention by Jimmy Hill that evening. Has anyone else sees this happen before or since?”