Winners' medals and spot-on 'keepers
Norman Hubbard is ESPNsoccernet'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.
I know that you have to play a certain amount of games in the Premier League to qualify for a winners' medal, who is the most famous player to miss out from one due to lack of appearances? It may it be injury (most likely), utter loss of form or simply clashes with the manager. For the latter reason, my gut feeling is that there will be a couple at Chelsea during the Jose Mourinho era. Ken Chow asked.
The current rule is that players have to appear in ten league matches, whether starting or as substitute, to qualify, but clubs can ask for special dispensation for a footballer who has played in fewer games to receive a medal. That has benefitted Tomasz Kuszczak (twice) and past Manchester United players Dion Dublin, Alan Smith, Henrik Larsson and Gerard Pique, plus former Arsenal goalkeeper Alex Manninger. Dublin and Smith were two who suffered horrific injuries and would otherwise have been expected to reach ten games, while Larsson's time at Old Trafford was a loan spell in early 2007 that only included seven matches.
For Arsenal in 2004, both Kanu and Martin Keown made exactly ten appearances, the latter coming on as a substitute in the final four games of the season, sometimes in midfield, to qualify for his medal.
However, there are some other prominent players to miss out and, as you expected, some are from Chelsea. Carlo Cudicini, Scott Parker and Adrian Mutu all fell short of ten games in the 2004-05 season; Carlton Cole (with nine), Wayne Bridge (partly because of injury), the unfortunate Cudicini, Lassana Diarra, Glen Johnson and Maniche all failed to qualify the following year.
There are a few contenders from Old Trafford, too. Jordi Cruyff played too few games in three successive seasons between 1998 and 2000. More recently, club captain Gary Neville, whose only appearance came as a substitute in Europe, and Mikael Silvestre did not feature enough in 2007-08 and the following year, the same applied to Wes Brown and Owen Hargreaves. A player who wasn't the most famous but may have been the most unlucky was Federico Macheda, who only played four times in the 2008-09 campaign but helped decide the title with winners in his first two games, against Aston Villa and Sunderland.
At the moment, Brown (seven), Hargreaves (one), Kuszczak (four), the retired Neville (three), and Antonio Valencia (nine) all fall short of the ten-game mark in the current campaign, though the Ecuadorian has the chance to make the vital tenth appearance against either Blackburn or Blackpool.
The UEFA Champions League, Europa League, Carling Cup and FA Cup do not allow players who change teams to play for another team in that competition during the same season. As an American fan who is accustomed to the player transfer rules in American sports, I'm having a hard time seeing the logic behind these rules, especially if the transfer takes place in the July-August window, so early in the competition. Can you give me some insight? John Zuehlke from St. Paul, Minnesota, asked.
There are several things to say: firstly UEFA relaxed its rules last year so that a player who appears in the preliminary stages of the Champions League or the Europa League can go on to represent another club, providing his initial employers have been eliminated and the transfer is completed by September 1. In addition, clubs can name a total of three different players in the Champions League squad in January, one of whom can have played Europa League football earlier in the campaign for another club. It was for this reason that Fernando Torres, who had played in the Europa League for Liverpool, could then appear in the Champions League for Chelsea.
The original principle behind the rules is, I think, twofold. Firstly, it is designed to prevent clubs buying up players from eliminated clubs to increase their chances of success; secondly, it is supposed to ensure that knockout competitions, for footballers and clubs themselves, are just that - once knocked out, you can't figure again until next season. Only in exceptional circumstances has this principle been waived - for instance, Manchester United were allowed to sign Ernie Taylor and Stan Crowther and field them in the FA Cup in 1958 after the Munich air disaster resulted in the deaths of eight players and the premature retirement of two others.
In any case, the summer transfer window has no impact on the FA Cup for Premier League or Football League clubs. Some top-flight clubs do not begin their Carling Cup campaign until September either.
I realise it's more common in parts of South America (I am thinking of Jose Luis Chilavert or Rogerio Ceni) for goalkeepers to take set pieces and penalties for their clubs, but has there ever been an instance of a Premier League goalkeeper scoring from a set piece or penalty? I seem to remember Peter Schmeichel scoring once, but that was from open play I believe. Anil Shah from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, asked.
Schmeichel did indeed score for both Aston Villa, against Everton in the Premier League, and for Manchester United, against Rotor Volgograd in the UEFA Cup, but they were both in open play. Indeed, only three goalkeepers have ever scored in the Premier League: Brad Friedel, for Blackburn, also managed it in open play. The only set-piece was an 88-yard free kick Paul Robinson took for Tottenham against Watford in March 2007, which rather embarrassed Ben Foster by bouncing in but can't be called a deliberate attempt at goal.
Penalty-taking goalkeepers tend to be more common abroad. Indeed, the German Hans-Jorg Butt holds the rare distinction of scoring from 12 yards against Juventus for three different clubs: Hamburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich, most recently in the Champions League in 2009.
However, to return to Schmeichel, there has been a penalty-taking goalkeeper at Old Trafford. Alex Stepney, Manchester United's first European Cup-winning 'keeper, had a brief spell taking the spot kicks. Indeed, he was their joint-top scorer at the halfway stage of the 1973-74 season, but that it was with just two goals indicates one of the reasons why the campaign ended in relegation.
Finally, further to a question last month about the longest gaps between managerial stints at English clubs - a distinction that now resides with Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool - reader Clayton Freeman adds: "At least at major clubs, the record probably belongs to Cesare Maldini at AC Milan. Maldini was fired by Milan after a 2-1 defeat at Verona - the club's fifth straight loss in Serie A - on April 6, 1974, and replaced by Giovanni Trapattoni (incidentally, this was the first managerial job in Trapattoni's long career). Maldini did not return to his former post until he was re-appointed as Milan co-manager (with Mauro Tassotti) on March 15, 2001 - 26 years, 11 months, and nine days later. He continued in this capacity until the end of the 2000-01 season."