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Goal droughts and promoted champions

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

I'm a Saints fan, and it seems to me that virtually every first-team player who played for Southampton in the Premier League managed a playing career with at least one goal in the top flight (goalkeepers excluded). Even though Claus Lundekvam took nearly 300 games to get his first, and Francis Benali only had one goal in 311 games, they all seemed to score eventually. That got me wondering: how common is it for a Premier League player to retire from the league without scoring?

I imagine it would be very common, as many players might only have short Premier League careers, for whatever reason (Ali Dia certainly does not have any goals to his name!). But does the answer to the question change when we ask instead "How common is it for someone who has played more than a full Premier League season to retire without scoring?" Is that list still a long one, or is that more rare? Dennis Crawford asked

It is rather more rare. Excluding goalkeepers (obviously), no one in the Premier League's top 50 appearance makers has failed to score. The winner of this unwanted award, therefore, is the former Birmingham and Wimbledon defender Kenny Cunningham, who played 335 Premier League games without scoring, though his career did include two goals, one in the league, for Millwall.

In second place, with no goals in 264 games, is a famously goal-shy player. Des Walker's entire career brought just one, for Nottingham Forest against Luton, in the season before the Premier League began. Next is Stephane Henchoz, who played 243 league games for Blackburn, Liverpool and Wigan without finding the opponents' net.

Those three are the only non-goalkeepers among the top 200 appearance-makers without a Premier League goal. The next in line, the first current player and the first man without a goal for any club in any competition is Tony Hibbert, whose 221 league games (282 in total) have been utterly unproductive. I believe he also has Everton's record for an outfield player without scoring.

With the recent promotion of Swansea to the Premier League, I was wondering whether there are any other football teams around the world which are based in, and compete in, separate countries' football leagues? Ekrem Sonmenis asked

This is an awkward situation. Technically Wales is not a different country, though it has its own national team, but is part of the United Kingdom. However, there is a separate League of Wales. Nevertheless, six Welsh teams are in the English football pyramid: Swansea, Cardiff (in the Championship) and, in non-league, Newport, Wrexham, Colwyn Bay and Merthyr Town. Newport, Wrexham and a former club in Merthyr Tydfil have all played in the Football League in the past.

However, there is an English team who play in a different league: Berwick Rangers, members of the Scottish League since 1955 and currently in the third division. To further complicate matters, one Scottish club - Queens Park - have played in the English FA Cup, albeit in the 19th Century. They reached the final in both 1884 and 1885. Cardiff, by the way, are the only non-English club to have won the FA Cup.

In addition, the League of Ireland includes one club from Northern Ireland, Derry City. They required special dispensation to join the division south of the border. Leaving the British Isles, Major League Soccer in the United States contains two Canadian teams, Toronto and the Vancouver Whitecaps and its predecessor, NASL, also included clubs from Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal as well as Toronto and Vancouver. In addition, the Australian A-League has a side from New Zealand, Wellington Phoenix. In both cases, there is a tradition of other sports competing in club leagues across the two countries while Canada and New Zealand lack a full-time professional football league.

There are other examples. The seven-times champions of France, Monaco, actually play in a separate country, though Monaco is not a member of FIFA. Exceptions are made for other small countries, too: San Marino Calcio are in Serie C2 in Italy, FC Andorra play in Spain and Liechtenstein's club sides are in the Swiss system. Perhaps the most extreme example is Singapore's S League which has featured 10 different non-Singaporean teams, though only two are in the current division.

I would like to know if Ryan Giggs has ever made the FIFA world XI in his career? Oyeniyi Raphael from Nigeria asked

He hasn't, although, as the annual selection of players only began in 2005, much of Giggs' career predated it.

In history, is there a team who got promoted to the top league and won the title the very next season? Alan Goh from Singapore asked

In English football, there are four: first Liverpool, title winners in 1906, then Tottenham in 1951. Ipswich Town, under Alf Ramsey, were next in 1962 followed by the most modern, and probably last for some time to come, Nottingham Forest. Promoted from Division Two in 1977, when they only finished third, they won Division One 12 months later and, remarkably, won the European Cup in each of the two following seasons.

There are examples abroad, too, with a prominent and comparatively recent one in the Bundesliga: Kaiserslautern won Germany's top two divisions in successive seasons, becoming champions of the country in 1998.


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