"When I was 10 years old, I went to watch this game with my cousin," recalls Phil Biggins, referring to England's 2-0 win over France at Wembley, in February 1992. Make sure you're sitting comfortably; there's more. "In the second half, something definitely happened which seemed crazy then, but would not resonate so much until he became even more famous. Me and my cousin had just seen Geoff Thomas miss an absolute sitter and we went back to slating David Seaman about his dodgy hair. We were hoping Gary Lineker would close in on Bobby Charlton's record, when there was an incident in which some crazy French man jumped up and kicked Neil Webb in the chest – not as violently as he did at Palace, but nonetheless, a fly kick is a fly kick. With the combined powers of Guardian readers, can you see if anyone has the game taped? If indeed I am proved correct, how has it been that no one has ever picked up on this before?"
Alas, Phil, it was not, in fact, Monsieur Cantona. According to the match report in the Times, one of only two we could dig out that actually mentioned it, it sounds as though Bernard Casoni was your "crazy French man":
And, just as the class of '84 contained hardness inside the velvet – remember Manuel Amoros's vile head-butt on Jesper Olsen? – Wembley saw some French villainy. Basile Boli lunged wickedly at Neil Webb and hacked down Gary Lineker, and Casoni should also have been sent off for his manic kick at Webb as the Englishman took a throw-in.
The Daily Mail also reported the Casoni kick, with Jeff Powell reckoning it alone was good enough reason for England to deserve their victory. Casoni went on to play at Euro 92 that summer, but made his last appearance for France in November that year, should you have been wondering. Contrary to your memory, Phil, Jeff says the kick on Webb came shortly after Lineker had scored the second (and his 47th for England). We could only find goal highlights online, but if anyone has the video and is in the mood to reminisce, you know where to reach us.
"On the Manchester United 1992-93 season review DVD, the commentator for the Leeds-Manchester United game (Ian Darke of Sky, I think) says that Manchester United fans had been calling the recently signed Eric Cantona 'Laptop'," says Aidan Curran. "Have I heard this correctly? If so, why was he being called 'Laptop', of all things?"
Not that we want to get in to the habit of raining on people's parades, you understand, but we're pretty sure you're not hearing it correctly, Aidan. Having played it back a few times, we're convinced he says "La top, that's what they're nicknaming him at Old Trafford, and he's been rewarding them with a glut of goals".
In any case, it doesn't really matter, because your trusty Knowledge has been in touch with a host of Manchester United supporters, and we've yet to find a single one who recalls hearing the desperately crap Franglais "la top". Philip Taylor, writing for Red Issue at the time, told us: "I have never heard that expression, and I went home and away in those days. Le Roi, maybe, but never La Top." What the Jiminy Cricket is Darke on about, then? "Sky once waxed lyrical about United fans singing 'Keegan for England' when he was Fulham manager," says Philip, "not realising that we were taking the piss."
THOSE WHO WAIT
"AFC Wimbledon's first goal in our 4-0 win over Portsmouth this weekend came on 34 minutes, continuing a streak that has been running for over eight months," writes Wayne Ziants, a self-described exile in Vancouver. "Despite scoring 33 times since then, our most recent goal in the first half-hour of a league game was 26 matches ago, on 9 March. Has any other team been so consistently slow to get going?"
AFC Wimbledon's run is impressive all right, even taking into account the summer break. The last time they scored in the opening half hour of a match was against York City, when Mat Mitchell-King's 21st minute strike began a 3-2 win on 9 March. And the closest they've come to a first half-hour goal in the months since was also against York, when Michael Smith scored the first of his brace on 31 minutes, in early September.
It turns out this sort of thing isn't quite so rare as you might think. (Although you may recall that the Knowledge recently slipped behind its favourite pair of horn-rimmed specs to establish that the Premier League produces more late goals than early ones, so perhaps this isn't a complete surprise.)
Even looking back over the last few seasons, we've found a number of barren-first-half runs. Norwich City, for instance, haven't scored in the first half hour of a league match since the final day of last season, when Anthony Pilkington scored in the 26th minute against Manchester City. They're still some way off AFC Wimbledon's match total, mind, having only played 11 league fixtures since then.
Southampton, meanwhile, didn't score in the first half hour of a league match between 6 April and 6 October this year, a six-month spell that included 17 games and almost exactly matched the period in 2010 that saw Ipswich Town fail to score in the opening half hour of 13 consecutive league matches. Leeds United didn't score before the 30th minute of a league match between Boxing Day 2012 and the first day of this season, when Ross McCormack opened the scoring against Brighton.
That's a run of 22 matches – and it would have been a Wimbledon-matching 26 in all competitions, if it weren't for Luke Varney's 15th-minute goal against Spurs in the Cup in January. The Dons can only hope to meet a full-back as accommodating as Kyle Naughton.
"Why did the East German team play in blue?" asked James Spackman back in 2000.
"The answer almost certainly lies in the fact that the shirts of the East German youth movement, the so-called 'Free German Youth (FDJ)' were also blue," said Donald Phillips. "When sport started in post-war East Germany, it was under the auspices of the FDJ The colour of the FDJ shirts was in turn chosen as a neutral response - as opposed to the red-brown shirts of the Hitler youth. The FDJ was, of course, the youth arm of the governing party of East Germany, the Socialist Unity party, formed by the remnants of the pre-Nazi era German Communist Party and SPD."
Donald went on to say that during one match the head of the Stasi, Erich Mielke, who was watching in the directors' box, was told off by the East German trainer for griping about the referee. "Shut up and sit down," he was told, "you know nothing about football." Mr Mielke, bless his ideological red socks, responded with: "It's a free country, I'm entitled to my opinion."
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CAN YOU HELP?
"After playing at multiple youth levels for the Spanish national team, Mallorca's Emilion Nsue decided earlier this year to play for his father's native country Equatorial Guinea," says Luke Povey. "He then captained his side against Benin in an unofficial friendly, and against Cape Verde in World Cup qualifying (in which he scored a hat-trick). He was then ruled to be ineligible, but will finally make his debut against his native Spain on the 16th November. My question is twofold: has a player ever been made captain on his international debut? And has a player ever made his official debut against a side for which he played at youth level?"
"Seeing Luis Suárez being offered use of John W Henry's private jet got me wondering: which footballers already own their own aircraft?" asks Katherine Davis. Are there many that hold pilots' licences? And do any own any particularly random modes of transport, such as tanks and the like?"
"What is the greatest goal-scoring record ever set in a football computer/video game?" muses Robert McEavy. We'll obviously need evidence.
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