“After seeing Rory Burns miss an England cricket match because of an injury caused playing football, which footballers have missed matches playing other sports?” tweets Mattskating.
“Rangers’ Marco Negri suffered a serious eye injury playing squash with Sergio Porrini,” tweets Jono Bolton. “Before that, he’d scored 33 goals in 26 games.” Ah yes, February 1998 in Glasgow, with Rangers battling for a 10th consecutive league title. Negri takes up the story: “He was the wrong choice of playmate for squash because it should not have been a game in which winning became everything and yet with Sergio that was impossible … At a speed that felt like 100mph that sphere of hard, hot rubber cannoned off the concrete and straight into the centre of my eye.”
Arriving for training the next day, Negri “turned up looking as if I had gone 15 rounds with Mike Tyson”. In fact, the Italian had suffered a detached retina, which required laser surgery. Negri went on to score just three more goals that season as Celtic claimed glory on the final day. “It left a legacy no football player, certainly not a penalty box poacher like me, would ever have wanted,” Negri would write in his autobiography. “I’d been left with difficulties with my peripheral vision, a terrible shortcoming for someone like me, who really only came alive in the 18-yard box and relied on razor-sharp reflexes.”
Rich Jones mails in to flag up Thibaut Courtois, who incurred the wrath of Antonio Conte in 2017 when hurting an ankle while playing basketball at a Chelsea promotional shoot. He also notes the dangers of golf in the cases of Swansea City’s Alan Tate (2011) and Kasey Keller (1998): Tate was a passenger in a buggy when it “lost control”, breaking his leg, while Keller knocked his front teeth out when taking a golf bag out of his car boot.
Of course there is the old Knowledge favourite, Norway defender Svein Grondalen, who missed a World Cup qualifier in 1977 when his training run was abruptly ended by absentmindedly colliding with a moose.
And reader David Carr notes that “Gary Lineker did a reverse Rory Burns: he missed a football match due to an injury suffered playing cricket”. Lineker explains more in his book Behind Closed Doors with Danny Baker:
When I was at Tottenham and living in St John’s Wood, I turned out, occasionally, on days off, for the Cross Arrows, the team made up of employees of the MCC, who have the privilege of playing on the Nursery Ground at Lord’s. I didn’t keep wicket because it would have been a bit unprofessionally reckless of me to subject my leg muscles to all that crouching down.
But I wasn’t averse to having a bowl. What could possibly be the harm in it? I found out what the harm could be the afternoon I came in, released the ball and felt a muscle go, high up in my back. It was as though somebody had just lumped me with a baseball bat. The following day I had to wincing to Terry Venables’ office and report what had happened.
‘I’m afraid I picked up an injury yesterday.’
‘Oh, for fuck’s sake …’
Terry was furious and wanted me to swear I wouldn’t play cricket again. I was reluctant to give it up entirely, though. After all, as I pointed out, my contract explicitly prohibited me from riding motorbikes and going skiing. But it didn’t say anything specifically about cricket. ‘OK then,’ Terry said. ‘But no bowling.’
“On 5 January 2020 Vince Carter became the first NBA player to play in four different decades,” tweets Derek Brosnan. “Have many footballers done this in English top-flight football? All I can think of is Stanley Matthews.”
Dan Seppings has gone deep. “For the top five European leagues, the following players have all played top-flight matches in parts of four different decades:
“As far as I can tell, only one player has scored a top-flight goal in four different decades. Billy Meredith scored for Manchester City in their 4-3 defeat to Blackburn on 2 September 1899, right through to finding the net for Manchester United against Everton on 12 February 1921. Gianlugi Buffon, Claudio Pizarro and Gareth Barry (if West Brom get promoted) could all join the four-decade club if they play a top-flight match this year.”
Then, of course, there’s this guy:
“Lisbon Lion Ronnie Simpson just about qualifies,” writes David Forbes. “He began his career with then-top flight Queen’s Park at the end of the second world war. He played for Third Lanark and Newcastle through the 1950s before joining Hibs and then Celtic in the 1960s. He retired in 1970 after suffering a shoulder injury, but led out the Lions in their final appearance together in the last league match of the 1970-71 season, before being substituted just before kick-off.”
Big non-league gates (2)
Last week we looked at the highest attendances for a non-league match. But it turns out Dulwich Hamlet can be eclipsed …
“I’m a life-long follower of Chelmsford City,” mails John Perry. “Their record crowd was for a Southern League match on 10 September 1949, a local derby against Colchester United, which attracted 16,807. The match finished 2-2. The teams met again a week later at Layer Road, where a crowd of 14,798 saw Colchester win 4-1. Colchester were elected to the Football League at the end of that season.”
However, reader Steve Bull points out an even greater Southern League gate from 1938, when Ipswich Town beat – again – Colchester 3-2 in front of 23,890 at Portman Road. This splendid database even includes the Essex County Standard’s match report, plus some images of the packed house.
“A couple of years ago I stumbled across what looked like Garth Crooks presenting Newsnight. I’m still, to this day, unsure of whether it was a bad dream or it actually happened. What’s the deal?” asked Andy Blackshire in 2005.
Close, but no cigar, Andy; what you were watching was indeed on BBC2, but it was everyone’s (OK, the odd person’s) favourite questioner hosting Despatch Box, a late-night politics show. It transpires that Garth used his spare time as a player at Tottenham to study politics at college. Along with this and his BBC Sport work, another string to his broadcasting bow had been the “discussion-slash-record” radio show he hosted on Greater London Radio, Garth Crooks in Conversation, which even won him a Sony Award in 1999-2000.
Can you help?
“Has a goalkeeper, sent up into the opposition area in the last minute, ever won a penalty?” asks James Murton.
“Which local derby or long-standing rivalry has been played across the most divisions?” wonders Mukhtar Khan.
“Has any substitute been shown a yellow card while on the bench, then brought on and shown a second yellow card?” enquires Guy Stephenson.