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Feb 28, 2013

Minute stake; Giggs' goalscoring

If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to ESPN's team of football anoraks at asknorman@hotmail.com and they will try to answer as many as possible.

I was reading up on Bobby Moore as it has been 20 years since his passing and discovered that in his 108 caps for England, he played every single minute of each game. Can you verify this? And if it's true, would it place him higher than David Beckham in terms of playing minutes for England even though Beckham has more caps? If we were to re-rank the players who have made international players in terms of caps to minutes of appearances, would the rankings change? Alvin from Singapore asked.

Your information is correct. Moore, the 1966 World Cup-winning captain, did indeed both start and finish every one of his 108 internationals for England, meaning he played 9,780 minutes of full international football. That is almost 24 hours more than Beckham, who, though England's second-most capped player, slips to fifth in our reworked table. One of those ahead of him, Billy Wright, played in an era before substitutes and played every minute of each of his 105 games. Of England's recent centurions, it is notable that Ashley Cole, who has started all 100 of his internationals, is almost 400 minutes ahead of Steven Gerrard, who has one more cap.

Indeed, our different table of England's 25 most capped players (which includes everyone with 70 caps) shows goalkeepers, and defenders, who are less likely to be replaced mid-match, and players from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and, in some cases, 1980s generally going up and more recent midfielders and attackers going down. The biggest faller is Michael Owen, England's ninth-most capped player, but only 22nd on this list. Going in the other direction is Tom Finney, the great Preston winger of the post-war era whose 76 caps now only leave him in 21st place but who played every minute of each game and leaps to 12th when players are ranked that way. Whichever way the players are ranked, however, Peter Shilton comes out on top.

The facts come from the excellent Englandstats.com, by the way.

Ryan Giggs' goal against Everton means he has scored in all 21 Premier League seasons so far, and 23 consecutive seasons, which is some feat. I was wondering: which player is closest to Giggs' record (consecutive scoring seasons up till present) and would stand a decent chance of overhauling it after Giggs retires? Aaron Ong asked.

Giggs doesn't have to look too far to see his closest challenger. His long-time team-mate Paul Scholes has scored at least one Premier League goal in each of the last 19 seasons, including the current campaign. However, as Scholes is likely to retire (for the second time) either in the same year or before Giggs, he will not claim his record.

Next in line is Frank Lampard, on target in the top flight for 16 successive seasons, one ahead of Steven Gerrard. However, even if Giggs does not score in another season, Lampard would have to carry on playing and finding the net in the Premier League until he is 41 just to equal him.

One to watch out for in the long term is Wayne Rooney, who, at 27, has struck 11 years in a row but a likelier scenario is that Giggs' record lasts long into his retirement, if not forever.

I am interested in teams who are strong defensively, and I am wondering which teams have been relegated with the least goals conceded (not including teams relegated for irregularities or deducted points, such as Juventus)? Dylan Bailey from Sydney asked.

The fewest goals conceded by a team relegated from the Premier League is 50, let in by Birmingham City in 2005-06. However, there is a more remarkable demotion in the Championship in recent seasons. Leicester City only conceded 45 goals from 46 league games in 2007-08, fewer than all three promoted clubs and a record only bettered by Crystal Palace, and went down. They did so with a goal difference of only minus three, although their tally of 42 goals still made them the division's lowest scorers.

However, there is a stranger story further back in history. In 1928-29, Cardiff City were not just relegated from Division 1: they finished bottom. And they did so with the best defensive record in the division. In an era when more goals were scored, they let in 59. Their problem was they only scored 43, the fewest by 19. Champions The Wednesday - soon to be renamed Sheffield Wednesday - conceded 62, by the way, with the second best defensive record belonging to 16th-placed Huddersfield, who let in 61.

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