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Nov 21, 2013

Level pegging; Relegation records

I was wondering if any teams in Premier League history have been level on points, goals for and against at the end of the season? Vy Bui asked.

The short answer is 'no'. Indeed in 21 Premier League seasons, there are only six examples of teams who had the same points total and goal difference at the end of a campaign, meaning they were separated by the numbers of goals scored. They are:

1992-93: Coventry (15th) and Ipswich (16th); 52 points; goal difference of minus five. 1995-96: Aston Villa (4th) and Arsenal (5th); 63 points; goal difference of plus 17. 1995-96: Coventry (16th) and Southampton (17th); 38 points; goal difference of minus 18. 1997-98: Tottenham (14th) and Wimbledon (15th); 44 points; goal difference of minus 12. 2003-04: Leeds (19th) and Wolves (20th); 33 points; goal difference of minus 39. 2011-12: West Bromwich Albion (10th) and Swansea (11th); 47 points; goal difference of minus seven.

Albion and Swansea are the two teams who came closest to finishing with identical records in that respect. Albion scored and conceded one more goal -- 45 and 52 to Swansea's 44 and 51. However, they also won one more match and drew three fewer. None of the six pairs of teams achieved the same number of wins, draws and defeats as each other in the league season.

Which club has been demoted from the top flight of English football the most and least number of times? Patrick Chng from Singapore asked.

The record holders, albeit with a record they probably don't really want, are Birmingham City, who have gone down from the old Division 1 or the Premier League 12 times, in 1896, 1902, 1908, 1939, 1950, 1965, 1979, 1984, 1986, 2006, 2008 and 2011. They have a further relegation, to the old Division 3, in 1989.

In the Premier League era, Crystal Palace hold the record with four relegations, in 1993, 1995, 1998 and 2005. That total, of course, could become five this season.

As for the clubs with the fewest relegations from the top flight, a trick answer would be to name any of those who have never played in it and thus gone down. Every club to have played in the Premier League or the old Division 1 has been relegated at least once. Wigan were the exceptions until their demotion in May. But of those who have spent longer in the top flight, Arsenal's record of only going down once stands out. This is their 97th season in Division 1 or the Premier League.

How many players have played for three or more London-based clubs? I can think of William Gallas, most recently of Tottenham, Yossi Benayoun and Eidur Gudjohnsen. Are there any more that have played for three or more clubs? Zaki Admani asked.

There is a long list. A recent column highlighted the achievement of Scott Parker in playing Premier League football for five London clubs, beating Paul Konchesky's previous record of four. As we noted then, Clive Allen, with seven London clubs in all, has played for most London sides.

Besides Benayoun, Gallas and Gudjohnsen, there are plenty of others with three or more, including Jimmy Greaves, Les Allen, Paul Allen, Ray Wilkins, Colin Pates, Dave Beasant, Vinnie Jones, Terry Gibson, Terry Phelan, Alan Pardew, Mark Bright, Ian Wright, Iain Dowie, Rufus Brevett, Neil Ruddock, Dennis Wise, Les Ferdinand, Andy Johnson, Bobby Zamora, Teddy Sheringham, Chris Armstrong, Steve Sidwell, Marouane Chamakh, Ashley Cole, Carlton Cole, Luke Young, Ben Thatcher, Tal Ben Haim, Shaun Derry, Jason Puncheon, Danny Granville, Danny Gabbidon, Danny Murphy, Wayne Routledge, Neil Shipperley, Chris Perry, Chris Powell, Luis Boa Morte, Adel Taarabt, Darren Bent and Edgar Davids.

By the way, Tom Carroll, on loan at QPR from Tottenham, has played for three at the age of 21. He was also borrowed by Orient in 2011.

I know that Owen Hargreaves won the Premier League with Manchester United in 2008, and was at Manchester City when they won in 2012, but he only made one appearance and didn't receive a winner's medal that season. This got me to wondering: Has any player been in a league-winning squad, but not made enough appearances to get a medal in multiple seasons? And, if so, who has that happened to the most? Anil Shah from Milwaukee, WI, USA asked.

It has actually happened to Hargreaves. Besides contributing to United's triumph in 2008, he was still at the club when they won the league in 2009 (when he made two league appearances) and 2011 (one). Factor in City's win in 2012 and that is three title-winning campaigns where he only made four appearances.

Medals are awarded to every player who makes ten or more league appearances for the champions meaning that back-up goalkeepers often play too few games. For instance, Hargreaves' former United team-mate Tomasz Kuszczak never played ten league games in a season for them. However, clubs can request medals for some players who make fewer than ten appearances and thus the Pole has three medals from the four title-winning campaigns in his time at Old Trafford. Technically, perhaps, he is the answer.

As it is, and excluding players in the youth-team ranks, I can't find anyone with more than Hargreaves' three medal-free years as a champion. However, there are two others with a similar achievement (if that is the right word): Steve Ogrizovic and Mike Hooper were Liverpool's back-up keeper for three title-winning campaigns apiece.

In the 1991-92 season of Manchester United, Ryan Giggs donned 11 many times, a jersey number he wears to this day. Is it the longest that a number has been worn by a player for one club? What about for multiple clubs? Prathyush from Chennai asked.

Giggs actually wore the No. 11 in the days before squad numbers were adopted: they were introduced to the Premier League in 1993, in time for the second season of the competition. Since then, Giggs is the only man to have worn the same number for the same club for all that time meaning, yes, it is the longest and playing more than 900 games in the same shirt for one club is yet another record for his collection. Indeed, even including players who have changed clubs in that time, no one else has kept a number for 21 years.

Indeed, because squad numbers are a comparatively recent phenomenon, Giggs stands unchallenged. While Paolo Maldini played for AC Milan for 24 years, Serie A only brought in squad numbers in 1995, a decade into his first-team career, though Maldini had usually been Milan's No. 3 before then.

For many years, the number a player wore was dictated by his position and so Stanley Matthews, who played on the right wing for Stoke and Blackpool from 1932 to 1965, could be said to have had the same number for 33 years. The man who almost certainly played the most games with the same number on his back was Peter Shilton, who played 1249 club games as a goalkeeper, all barring any substitute appearances would have been as the No. 1. The same applies to most of his 125 internationals although Shilton wore 22 in the 1982 World Cup.

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