The Premier League’s 1950s-born players and football grounds named after sports – The Guardian

“With Moise Kean of Juventus appearing and being the first top-flight player to be born in 2000, I was wondering who the last players to play in the Premier League to be born in the 50s, 60s and 70s were?” wonders Tom Worsley.

Stuart Sale has all the information you could possibly ask for on this one. “There are still players born in the 1970s playing in the Premier League,” he points out. “Shay Given (born 1976), Paul Robinson (born 1979) and Gareth McAuley (also 1979) have all played this season. Both Robinson and McAuley played last weekend.

“Jens Lehmann (born 1969) was the last player born in the 60s to appear, playing against Blackpool in April 2011, while Dean Windass (also 1969) was the last outfield player to make an appearance, on Boxing Day 2008 for Hull against Man City.

“Steve Ogrizovic (born 1957) played for Coventry against Sheffield Wednesday in May 2000. Neville Southall (born 1958) played for Bradford in March that year against Leeds. Gordon Strachan (born 1957) picked himself to play for Coventry against Derby in May 1997 making him the last outfield player born in the 50s to appear in the Premier League.

“Since history began in 1992 (as Sky like to remind us) no player born in the 40s has played in the top flight. However, if we go into pre-history, Peter Shilton (born 1949) last played in the top flight for Derby in the 1990-91 season when they were relegated. He did, however, warm the bench for West Ham a couple of times in 1996.

“Unlike in Serie A, no player born this millenium has yet appeared in the Premier League. Ryan Sessegnon (born May 2000) has played for Fulham in the Championship and Ethan Ampadu (September 2000) has played for Exeter City in League Two. Current flavour of the month Ben Woodburn (October 1999) is the person born closest to Y2K to have played in the Premier League.

From Athletics Stadium to Plough Lane

“Rugby was being played at Rugby Park on Saturday, which is unusual, as it’s the home ground of Kilmarnock FC,” notes John Spooner. “That led me to wonder if there are any other football grounds past or present which are named after other sports. All I could come up with were the Baseball Ground, the Racecourse Ground, and the Stade Vélodrome. I’m sure there must be more.”

Tim Dockery has gone to town on this one, submitting his suggestions in the form of a sport-by-sport shortlist, which seems an excellent presentational idea. Let’s do this:

Cricket: “The Melbourne Cricket Ground has been used on multiple occasions for soccer including in 2015 when 99,382 people came out to see a game between Real Madrid and Manchester City. Likewise, the Sydney Cricket Ground has seen soccer played on its turf: the most attended match there was when 51,566 people came to see New South Wales play Everton in 1964.”

Athletics: “The Tulsa Athletics of the National Premier Soccer League in the US play in the aptly named Athletics Stadium. Their average home attendance is about 3,500 per game.”

Polo: “The old Polo Grounds in New York (home for a time to baseball’s Yankees, New York Giants and the Mets), held a slew of soccer games over the years hosting the likes of the Scottish national team, the Israeli national team, Beskitas, Manchester United, Everton, Shamrock Rovers and Red Star Belgrade. It was also home to several teams from the long-defunct American Soccer League.”

Hockey: “The Milton Keynes Dons played at the National Hockey Stadium in Milton Keynes from 2003 to 2007.”

Mountaineering: “If you consider mountaineering a sport, from 1997 until 2004 the University of West Virginia played its home games at the Mountaineer Soccer Complex, which would make it partially named after another sport.”

Lacrosse: “Another soccer venue that is partially named after a different sport was the Soccer-Lacrosse Stadium (now Reese Stadium), the home field for both Yale University’s soccer and lacrosse programs.”

Football: Stephen Martin can explain this one. “The home ground of Australian A-League team Sydney FC is the Sydney Football stadium (if you ignore the current corporate rebranding),” he writes. “No I haven’t misread the question and no it is not a stadium named after the same sport, as it was originally a rugby league stadium which is referred to as Football in NSW and Queensland.”

Ploughing: Competitive ploughing is an actual thing, and thus – as Derrick Cameron emails in to point out – Wimbledon’s old haunt, Plough Lane, has got to count. Incidentally, this year’s 63rd World Ploughing Contest, held at Crockey Hill near York in October, resulted in a spectacular family double, with Andrew B Mitchell Snr winning the reversible event, and Andrew B Mitchell Jr taking the conventional crown.

Additionally, the Knowledge has come up with a couple of our own suggestions:

Rugby: In addition to Rugby Park, the Potgietersrus Rugby Stadium in Johannesburg was used for a while as the home ground of Katlehong City FC, once of South Africa’s National First Division. Similarly FC Cape Town, currently in that division, play at the NNK Rugby Stadium.

Horse racing: The Racecourse Ground has been Wrexham’s home since 1864, and is the oldest surviving international football ground, having first hosted Wales in 1877 – but is still named after its previous usage, as a venue for horse racing (and cricket) throughout the 19th century.

Bridge: Popular post-retirement pastime. See Stamford Bridge, and for that matter Trent Bridge, which hosted football back in ye olde days.

Maths: Apologies in advance, but does the existence of an International Mathematical Olympiad earn the County Ground a place on this list?

Yachting: Strictly speaking it’s not the name of a sport, but the conclusion of the Clipper Round the World yacht race, like Rochdale’s home ground, could be summed up by the phrase Spot Land.

Sub-par trivia

“I have taunted my fellow workers in our ad hoc soccer quiz, asking who the first-ever sub in Premier League history was,” writes Dag Fjeldstad. “I thought the correct answer should be Erik Thorstvedt coming on for Ian Walker. My hunch was hard to prove, but it is to some extent corroborated by the Spurs Firsts website. How nice it would be if you look into this and put the record straight if necessary.”

It would be our pleasure, Dag, but not necessarily yours. We identified the first ever substitute in the English leagues back in 2001 here. When it comes to Premier League substitutions, sadly you need to stop taunting. The first season of the newly-rebranded Premier League was 1992-93, and Thorstvedt came on for Walker at half-time in Tottenham’s second game of that campaign, a 2-0 defeat at home to Coventry, thus missing out on the title of the new-look top-flight’s first sub by a considerable margin.

That honour instead goes to Mike Phelan, now manager of Hull City, who replaced the crocked Paul Ince seven minutes into Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat at Sheffield United on the season’s opening day. The Guardian’s reporter at this game (it doesn’t seem fair to name him) raged that the Mancunians’ disappointing performance demonstrated “Alex Ferguson’s propensity for dubious judgments”, the need “for Ferguson to learn the difference between a striker and a goalscorer” and “Ferguson’s suspect ability to make the best use of what he has”, after which United went on to win the league not only that season but in six of the following eight as well, while Paul Ince – “rarely fit” – was runner up in the PFA Player of the Year voting and Ryan Giggs – “he seems to have stopped taking on players and opted instead for the hopeful cross” – wrapped up the Young Player of the Year award, as well as finishing third in the voting for the Football Writers’ Association main gong. Anyway, this particular title was won by Phelan by a margin of 22 minutes, the next substitution coming at Crystal Palace, where Blackburn brought on Chris Price to replace Alan Wright in the 29th minute of a 2-2 draw, also on the opening day, 15 August 1992.

Hull City's manager, Mike Phelan



Mike Phelan, history-maker. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/Reuters

Hat-tricks on international debut (2)

“I see Serge Gnabry scored a hat-trick on his international debut,” observes Neil Harrington. “Just wondering how many other players have achieved this feat, or even exceeded it? And if any of them had also been sold by Arsenal for a criminally small amount of money?”

Duncan Aitchison can add another name to our list of prolific international debutants: “Readers might like to note the East Fife centre-forward Henry Morris got a hat-trick in his first, and notably only, game for Scotland, versus Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in October 1949. Scotland won 8-2,” he notes. “This game came onto the radar recently with the death in October of this year of the former Wolves, Liverpool and others forward Sammy Smyth, who scored both the Northern Ireland goals. Among his other career highlights, Sammy scored for Wolves in the 1949 FA Cup Final.

Long-running sponsorships (2)

“I’m watching the Milan derby and it occurred to me that Inter have been sponsored by Pirelli for as long as I can remember,” writes Terence Davidson. “Is this the longest running active shirt sponsor? If not who is, and which company/club holds the all time record?”

“Revigrés might have held a respectable 29 years as Porto shirt sponsors, but IFK Gothenburg of Sweden have them beat,” writes John Pettersson. “IFK began the 1976 season as newcomers to the top Swedish league after a stint in the lower divisions. There was also a newcomer on their blue-and-white shirts: ICA (a chain of grocery stores) adorned their chest, the first sponsor to ever get a place on the IFK shirt.

IFK Gothenburg v Dundee United



IFK Gothenburg: record-breakers? Photograph: Bob Thomas/Getty Images

“And they would stick around. The ICA logo would remain, prominently mid-chest, on the IFK shirt for the next 37 years. In fact, the ICA logo became so ingrained with the IFK shirt that it was fairly common for opposing fans to refer to the team as ‘ICA Gothenburg’ (no, it’s not clever or a pun or anything). Only in 2013 did the two finally part ways. So 37 years, nearly four decades of shirt sponsorship. And constantly in the same position. Can anyone do better?” Readers, consider the gauntlet thrown.

Knowledge archive

“I notice that, despite the No2 shirt being available, Chelsea have given their new defender Khalid Boulahrouz the No9 shirt. Are there other examples of unusual squad numbers?” asked Abraham Torsfink back in 2006.

To blatantly misquote Clint Eastwood, quirky numbers are like foibles: almost every team’s got one. And they have been especially commonplace since the advent of squad numbers in 1993. Until then, you had to look to the World Cup: in 1978 and 1982, Argentina numbered their squad alphabetically, so the No1 and No2 shirt went to Norberto Alonso and Ossie Ardiles respectively, midfielders both. Holland had started that trend in 1974, from Ruud Geels (No1) to Harry Vos (No22) via the goalkeeper Jan Jongbloed (No8) – with one inevitable exception: Johan Cruyff, who should have worn No1, was allowed to wear his trademark No14 (what’s more, Cruyff was even allowed wear a different strip to the rest of the team; his jersey had two stripes down the arm rather than one because he had a separate sponsorship deal).

If such an avant-garde approach to numbering was typical of Holland’s Total Footballing ethos, the same can’t exactly be said of the first English side to adopt the same procedure: Charlton Athletic, who had their Scottish clugger Stuart Balmer wearing No1 in the mid-90s.

Even Bruce Forsyth would not have suggested going lower than No1, but the Moroccan striker Hicham Zerouali, who played for Aberdeen between 1999 and 2002, did indeed wear 0 on his back after the SPL granted him special dispensation (his nickname was ‘Zero’, uncannily earning him a mention in the Knowledge just a couple of weeks back). Even more unusual was the case of Internazionale’s Iván Zamorano who, after being forced to give his precious No9 shirt to the new signing Ronaldo in 1997, had the mother of all hissy fits before for settling for No1+8 on his back. The Porto goalkeeper Vitor Baia, meanwhile, was the first man to wear No99 in a European Cup final, in 2004. And Guadalajara’s Adolfo Bautista wore No100, but only in domestic matches in Mexico: Fifa rules meant he couldn’t sport three figures in the Copa Libertadores.

Then there’s the Bayern Munich full-back Bixente Lizarazu, who proved that football had wags long before Abbey Clancy’s clothes first began to miraculously disappear: in his later years he slithered up and down the left flank with No69 on his back. It’s not as cringeworthy as it seems, however: Lizarazu, believe it or not, was born in 1969, is 169cm tall and weighs 69kg. Mrs Lizarazu was unavailable for comment with regard to any further coincidence.

Can you help?

“After seeing Celtic loanee Patrick Roberts score against his parent club Manchester City in the Champions League, it got me thinking: what are other, significant historical examples of loanees doing the same against their own employers? And what were the consequences, if any, for the goalscorers?” asks Andy McGrath.

“During a recent Wikipedia binge carried out while watching a nostalgic re-run of Gladiators, it came to my attention that the athlete known as Wolf once turned out for Gillingham reserves,” writes Isaac Ashe. “Michael Van Wijk played 73 minutes in October 1994 against Cambridge United’s reserves before picking up an injury – helping to attract a gate 10 times the norm for a Gills reserve game. Has there ever been a more unexpected and/or surreal appearance for a league club from a celebrity?”

“While not watching England v Scotland a couple of weeks back, it struck me that both managers are ex-Boro managers,” writes Mike Haslam. “The quality of the game (and particularly Boro’s football when wee Gordon was in charge) will prevent me from claiming this as a source of pride for the Boro, but I wondered whether any international games before have featured two managers who had previously managed the same club?”

“On 26 November both Sheffield clubs played away fixtures at the same time,” notes Andrew Wood. “Despite being a fan of Wednesday for over 40 years, this is not an occurrence that I can remember happening before. Is this the case, or is my memory fading, along with my good looks?”

“While waiting patiently for the words ‘Britt Assombalonga’ to trip out of the commentator’s mouth during a recent Nottingham Forest game, I wondered whether his five syllables are the most in the surname of a professional player,” mused Tom Bird. “Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink might squeak it overall, but how about one-word surnames?”

“While looking at Premier League results I was thinking how well the London teams did this weekend, with Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and Palace all winning, and then I realised West Ham had been defeated,” writes Andy O’Shaughnessy. “Has there ever been a weekend where nearly all the London clubs – feel free to go down the leagues – have won?”

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