Norman Hubbard is ESPN FC's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to email@example.com and he'll try to answer as many as possible.
In your column a few weeks ago, you said that Ireland's 2002 World Cup squad contained no players from the Irish domestic league. In fact, I believe all of the players were plying their trade in the top three tiers of English football. I know that several World Cup squads have been complete with only domestic players, but has any other squad not contained any players from that country's domestic league? Anil from Milwaukee, Wisconsin asked
There have been eight squads in total which haven't featured a single home-based player and, besides all being in the last six tournaments, they fall into two categories: the Republic of Ireland and west African countries. The Irish have travelled to three World Cups, without taking a player from their domestic league to any. Nigeria have also named three squads without a player based at home while Cameroon and Ivory Coast, who also export players to Europe, are the others. The full list is:
1990 - Republic of Ireland
1994 - Nigeria, Republic of Ireland
1998 - Nigeria
2002 - Cameroon, Republic of Ireland
2006 - Ivory Coast
2010 - Nigeria
However, as regular readers are probably all too aware, there are plenty of caveats and technicalities in this column and here is another: Northern Ireland did not take any players based at home to the 1958 World Cup, but they did select three in their provisional squad. Only 17 of their chosen 22 travelled to Sweden and the unlucky five included Roy Rea of Glenavon, Linfield's Tommy Hamill and Coleraine forward Bobby Trainor.
Sir Alex Ferguson has won all three major UEFA club competition trophies and my question is this: has any other coach done this before or after Sir Alex? Patrick Senesie in Freetown, Sierra Leone asked.
Ferguson actually hasn't won all three. He has lifted the Champions League twice with Manchester United, in 1999 and 2008, and the now defunct Cup Winners' Cup twice, with Aberdeen in 1983 and United in 1991 but not the UEFA Cup/Europa League.
But there are two managers who have completed the set. The first was Udo Lattek, who won them with different clubs. The European Cup came for Bayern Munich in 1974, the UEFA Cup at Borussia Monchengladbach in 1979 and then the Cup Winners' Cup while at Barcelona in 1982. Among other things, Lattek also won the Bundesliga eight times.
The other manager to lift all three trophies is Giovanni Trapattoni, who won them all during his successful first spell at Juventus. He won the UEFA Cup in 1977, the Cup Winners' Cup in 1984 and the European Cup in 1985. The Italian won two further UEFA Cups, for Inter in 1991 and during his second stint at Juve in 1993. By the way, Trapattoni's three UEFA Cup/Europa League wins is a record for a manager.
Looking through the list of Cup Winners' Cup winning managers, Ferguson is probably the only one who could go on to complete the managerial Grand Slam. But even that would involve United competing in the Europa League, something they did last season but, after securing qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League, will not this term.
How many divisions have Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal played in English football? I am sure Arsenal have never relegated since they were promoted to the top division, Tamba Turay asked.
Arsenal actually have been relegated from the top division, in 1913; more of the circumstances of their contentious promotion in 1919 are here.
But, in answer to your question, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United have all played in two divisions - the top two, obviously - since being admitted to the Football League. Manchester City are the exceptions, with their solitary season in the third tier, in 1998-99, meaning they have played in three divisions. Of the five, City have also spent the longest time in the second flight; 31 years, albeit including two when they were still known as Ardwick and the entirety of World War II, when the Football League was suspended.
In view of Lionel Messi breaking Pele's record, how far is Cristiano Ronaldo from the record? And are there any Premier League players on that list? Lenny from the Seychelles asked
Yes, Messi has beaten Pele's personal best of 75 goals in a calendar year, set in 1958. He went past the Brazilian with a double in 4-2 victory against Mallorca on November 11, while his brace in Saturday's 3-1 win over Real Zaragoza took his tally for 2012 to 78 and, carrying on his habit of scoring in twos, he took his total for 2012 to 80 in the 3-0 Champions League triumph against Spartak Moscow.
However, Messi is not the overall record holder yet. That title belongs to Gerd Muller, who scored 85 times in 60 games for Bayern Munich and West Germany in 1972.
Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, has 59 goals in 2012, which would be a remarkable tally another year, but has rather been overshadowed by Messi's exploits. The leading Premier League player is in distinctly distant pursuit. Robin van Persie has 33 goals for his clubs and his country so far this year.