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Which maverick outfield footballers have worn the No 1 shirt? | The Knowledge

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“Filip Knezevic debuted for Radnicki Nis playing in the No 1 shirt, in spite of being a winger not a keeper. What other notable outfield No 1s are there?” tweets Richard Wilson.

While outfield players wearing No 1 are still a rarity, they are not as uncommon as you might think. Nor are they a modern-football phenomenon. Josh Wright winds the clock back 45 years to give us what is possibly the first example. It’s the crazy Dutch blazing a trail, of course. “Striker Ruud Geels was given the No 1 shirt at the 1974 World Cup. Internationally, both the Netherlands and Argentina adopted a policy of assigning shirt numbers alphabetically. Argentina allocated the unusual outfield squad number to Norberto Alonso in 1978, Osvaldo Ardiles in 1982 and Sergio Almirón in 1986.

“As well as Filip Knezevic, outfield players have occasionally worn the No 1 for their clubs, including: Pantelis Kafes for Olympiakos and AEK Athens, Charlton’s Stuart Balmer in the 1990s, Sliema Wanderers’ David Carabott in 2005–06, Partizan’s Simon Vukcevic in 2004–05, Daniel Pancu of Besiktas in 2005–06 and Atlético Mineiro’s Diego Souza in 2010. Additionally, Adolfo Bautista wore No 1 for both Guadalajara and Chiapas.”

Quite a few of you have written in to remind us of Edgar Davids assigning himself the shirt when he became player-manager at Barnet just to, you know, let it be known who the governor was in his new manor. “That is my number for the season. I am going to start this trend,” announced Barnet’s No 1. The Bees’ goalkeeper at the time, Graham Stack, was handed the, um, famous No 29 shirt. “Squad numbers mean nothing to me and I’ve had a few over the years. So it is not an issue for me,” said Stack. “Edgar Davids has asked to wear No 1, he asked me what number I want and I said I didn’t mind.”

Edgar Davids, captain, manager and quite literally Barnet’s No 1 player in 2013.

Edgar Davids, captain, manager and quite literally Barnet’s No 1 player in 2013. Photograph: Action Images

We have trailed over shirt numbers in the past: what’s in a number, from 2006, a follow-up soon after, the highest combined substitution figure, players’ ages lower than their number, the retired ones and those who used them to match their names.

When premature engravings backfire

“In the dying stages of a final, the camera often pans to the sideline showing an engraver putting the team name on the trophy,” writes Richard Smith. “Has this ever backfired due to late goals or some other reason?”

According to Peter Harthan, this happened in 1991 on the last day of the Second Division season. Here he recalls a story told to him by Oldham’s former commercial manager, Alan Hardy: “The title was to be decided between Oldham and West Ham. The Hammers had the advantage. If they beat Notts County at Upton Park, the title was theirs. If West Ham slipped up then Oldham could take the title by beating Sheffield Wednesday at home. Although the Hammers were losing to Notts County, Oldham were also 2-0 down to Wednesday.

“On the final whistle at West Ham the latest news was that Oldham were losing, albeit an Ian Marshall goal had made it 2-1, and it was felt safe to engrave the trophy for post-match presentation. However, an equaliser from Paul Bernard led to a frenetic end to the game at Oldham, and deep into injury-time John Sheridan tripped Andy Barlow and Oldham were awarded a penalty. Neil Redfearn stepped up to win the league for Oldham with the last kick of the season. When the trophy arrived at Boundary Park two days later at Roger Palmer’s testimonial, it was engraved with West Ham’s name.”

Here’s an engraving that didn’t go wrong.

Here’s an engraving that didn’t go wrong. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images

Theoretically playing more than 90 games in a season (revisited)

“Going back a bit now (14 August), but I think Andy Brook’s theoretical 94-game season for a League One team can be beaten,” writes David Southworth.

“My theoretical team hasn’t won the Champions League or FA Cup, but last season they won the League Cup, which means they enter the Europa League at the second qualifying round. So they miss out on the Community Shield, Super Cup and World Club Cup, but more than make up for that with the extra Europa League games. As before, they make it to all possible finals, with FA Cup replays wherever possible, which gives them the following matches: League One 46, play-offs three, FA Cup 12, League Cup six, EFL Trophy eight, Europa League 21, giving a total of 96.”

Championship champions beating Premier League champions

“Given Norwich’s triumph over Manchester City, when was the last time the team that won the championship beat the Premier League champions in their first meeting of the season?” asks Bill Farnham.

It wasn’t so long ago at all. You only have to rewind the clock back to 5 December 2015, when Bournemouth helped bundle José Mourinho towards the Chelsea exit door with a 1-0 defeat of his then reigning champions at Stamford Bridge. Twelve days later Mourinho was sacked following a defeat at Leicester.

Glenn Murray celebrates in front of Bournemouth’s fans after scoring the winning goal against reigning champions Chelsea in December 2015.

Glenn Murray celebrates in front of Bournemouth’s fans after scoring the winning goal against reigning champions Chelsea in December 2015. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Knowledge archive

“Dundalk scored after 12 seconds in the League of Ireland … after their opponents Derry had taken the kick-off,” wrote Sam Alanson in September 2014. “Is this the quickest goal ever scored by a team who didn’t kick-off?”

The short answer to this question was, no. But we had several responses from which we permed the following quickfire top four, including the fastest goals in the entire history of the FA Cup, the Champions League and the World Cup:

9 seconds: Roda v Den Haag, October 2011.
9 seconds: Reading v West Brom, February 2010.
10.12 seconds. Bayern Munich v Real Madrid, March 2007.
10.80 seconds. South Korea v Turkey, July 2002.

Can you help?

“With Saturday at 3pm being the traditional kick-off time, which Premier League team has played the least in one season?” asks Roger Kirkby.

Martin Sykes-Haas

Successful strike partners who didn’t get on at all.

September 24, 2019

“A conversation about Aaron Mooy (55.55% vowels) made us wonder which current player in the English top flight has the highest proportion of vowels in their combined first and last names? After much discussion we came up with Étienne Capoue (61.54% vowels). Are there any current (or past) Premier League players with a higher vowelage rate?” wonders Richard Barnett (28.57%).

Ben Jones

Which striker in the premier League era is the least effective in terms of most mins played without scoring or assisting

September 24, 2019

“Manchester City scored five in the first 18 minutes against Watford. Is this a record? Or has a team scored five or more in a European top-flight faster than the first 18 minutes of a match?” muses George Jones.


Amanda Palmer released a single called “Leeds United”, and The Divine Comedy a track called “Queen of the South” – what’s the highest-charting song to share it’s name with a football team?

September 24, 2019

Manchester City

Manchester City got five on the scoreboard in just 18 minutes. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

“In last Thursday’s Europa League, Wolverhampton, Wolfsburg and Wolfsberger FC all played,” writes Maarten Westerveen. “Add Roma (nicknamed ‘Wolves’) to it and you have a pack stalking the league. Has there been any been any larger herd/murder/congregation of a single animal in an international competition.”

Email your questions and answers to or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU.

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