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Aug 29, 2012

Out of their comfort zone

Norman Hubbard is ESPN's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to asknorman@hotmail.com and he'll try to answer as many as possible.

Can we deduce that Sir Bobby Robson was the most successful manager, and Steve McClaren after him in terms of title or trophy success for an English manager outside England? Or does Roy Hodgson belong to this group as well? JWNY, a Chelsea fan from Singapore, asked.

In the last quarter of a century, Robson's achievements - four league titles, domestic cups in the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain and the European Cup Winners' Cup for Barcelona - put him at the top of the list while McClaren, in his first spell at Twente, is the last English manager to win a league title in Europe.

However, in the all-time reckoning, McClaren barely rates a mention. Hodgson won two Swedish Cups and five league titles, plus four Allsvenskan (a higher title, as the overall champions of Sweden), as well as a Danish league title. There are two English managers who have reached a European Cup final with a foreign side - Terry Venables, who also won La Liga for Barcelona, and Bob Houghton, the former Malmo coach who won three Allsvenskan and four Swedish Cups.

Go back into history, however, and there are several other candidates for the title of the most successful ever. As a feature of the correspondence this column receives is suggestions some trophies matter more than others and some are easier to win, below are the six major contenders. I'll let readers decide who they believe belongs at the top of the list.

A) James Richardson Spensley won six Serie A titles in the space of seven years with Genoa.

B) Fred Pentland won La Liga twice and the Copa del Rey five times, all with Athletic Bilbao.

C) William Garbutt won three Serie A titles with Genoa and one La Liga title with Athletic Bilbao.

D) Jack Greenwell won the South American Championship with Peru, one Peruvian title, two Copa del Reys and, in the days before La Liga was founded, seven Catalan titles (six for Barcelona, one for Espanyol).

E) Jack Reynolds won eight Dutch league titles and one Dutch Cup, all with Ajax.

F) George Raynor won two Swedish Cups plus Olympic gold and bronze medals while taking Sweden to third and second in the World Cup.

That shortlist does not include arguably England's greatest managerial export, Jimmy Hogan, but his influence outweighed his achievements.

After the recent transfer of Robin Van Persie to Manchester United, when was the last time a club had the top two league scorers playing in the same team in the Premier League? Cuthbert Li asked

This is the first time it has happened in the Premier League era. Van Persie (30) and Wayne Rooney (27) were the two top scorers in last season's top flight. The closest comparison also comes at Old Trafford. In 1998-99 Dwight Yorke topped the scoring charts on 18 with his Manchester United team-mate Andy Cole a goal further back on 17 and both were colleagues again the following season. However, he was not the second top scorer, simply because the Golden Boot was shared. Chelsea's Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Liverpool striker Michael Owen also got 18 goals so, although only one strike separated them, Cole was technically the joint-fourth highest scorer, along with Arsenal's Nicolas Anelka.

During the 2012 UEFA Champions League final, Didier Drogba scored both the equalising goal and the winning penalty. Has anyone else ever done that? James Mbogo from Nairobi, Kenya asked.

No, in the history of Champions League and European Cup finals, Drogba's feat is unique. Indeed, even in the games that didn't go to a shootout, no one has ever scored an equaliser and then a winner from the penalty spot. The closest I can get - none of which are very close - are combinations like an equaliser and a winner (neither a penalty of any variety), as Jose Altafini managed for AC Milan in 1963, a goal in a comeback and the final penalty his side scored in a shootout win (even if it was ended by Jerzy Dudek's save from Andriy Shevchenko, not his own earlier spot kick) by Liverpool's Vladimir Smicer in 2005. Had Dudek not saved that, however, Steven Gerrard, who did get the equaliser and was about to take Liverpool's fifth penalty, could have accomplished what Drogba eventually did seven years later.

In all, the following seven players have scored both during the game and the shootout of the same European Cup / Champions League final: Phil Neal (Liverpool, 1984); Jari Litmanen (Ajax, 1996); Stefan Effenburg (Bayern Munich, 2001); Gaizka Mendieta (Valencia, 2001); Smicer (Liverpool, 2005); Frank Lampard (Chelsea, 2008); and Drogba (Chelsea, 2012). Only Lampard and Mendieta ended up on the losing side in the shootout.

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