"Last week Dean Shiels played for Kilmarnock in the Scottish League Cup final despite having had his right eye removed," began Mark Robson last week. "I also remember a one-armed defender for Jeunesse Hautcharage of Luxembourg against Chelsea in the Cup Winners' Cup in 1971 (Chelsea won 13-0 for a 21-0 aggregate). My question is this: which professional player has been most successful with the most – or, perhaps, most dramatic – missing body parts?"
Not much debate about this one – as recounted previously in the Knowledge Uruguay striker Héctor Castro, despite losing the lower part of his left arm in an unfortunate carpentry accident at the age of 13, scored the last-minute clinching goal in the country's 4-2 World Cup final win over Argentina in 1930. El Divino Manco also won two Olympic golds and three Uruguayan national titles with Nacional, and went on to have a successful coaching career with his club and briefly with the national side.
But Castro is far from the only player without a full complement of body parts to have had a stellar career in the game. Robert Schlienz had returned from the Eastern Front during the second world war after being shot in the jaw and begun a prolific career as a centre forward with VfB Stuttgart. On 13 August 1948 his mother died but he opted to play against Kickers Offenbach on the following day regardless. On the journey his car overturned after hitting a pothole and his arm was crushed. He was 24.
"Although Schlienz initially assumed that his football career was over, Stuttgart's trainer Georg Wurzer came up with an ingenious solution," writes Paul Joyce. "Wurzer decided to move Schlienz away from the physical cut and thrust of the action by converting him from a centre-forward to a winger. Only five weeks after the amputation, Schlienz was back in training, practising how to make runs, fall over and roll away. Less than four months after his accident, Schlienz made his comeback for his team against Bayern Munich.
"As club captain, Schlienz then led Stuttgart through the most successful period in the club's history. He inspired the Swabians to two West German championships in 1950 and 1952, being particularly impressive in the 1952 championship final against 1.FC Saarbrücken. He also won the German Cup with Stuttgart in 1954 and 1958. Schlienz made three appearances for the West German national team in 1955 and 1956. After his death in 1995, Stuttgart's reserve team stadium was renamed the Robert Schlienz Stadion."
Tarek Najm suggests Hakan Soderstjerna, who, while not winning World Cups or Bundesliga titles, carved out a steady career in the Swedish top-flight. He was born without the lower part of his right arm. You can see him nodding a goal for Landskrona in the Swedish Cup here. The tricky midfielder was something of a cult hero at the club, returning to Di randige (The Striped Ones) after a brief spell in the Norway with Fredrikstad FK. Such was his popularity a tribute song was also penned by the club. If that's not success, we're not sure what is. Here's an example of the inspired lyrics: "A few years at Olympia, in the middle of Helsingborg's defence; Hakan treated [ex Coventry and Sheffield Wednesday defender] Roland Nilsson to a hot dog [ie made a fool of him]; And that made Rolle happy; Because that is what he wanted. Hakan, Hakan, Hakan Soderstjerna; Your dribbling makes one happy; Hakan, Hakan, Hakan Saderstjerna; And you are doing it bloody well."
"Paraguay's Julio González lost his entire left arm in a 2006 car accident, but managed to return to his former club Tacuary in 2007," writes Tim Dockery. "Victorio Casa had his arm shot off by the Argentine military outside of the infamous Naval Mechanics School in 1965, but continued playing through 1971 including for San Lorenzo and Quilmes. And Jimmy Hasty scored 109 goals in 169 appearances for Dundalk of the Premier Division of the League of Ireland even though he had only one arm."
Several players, like Shiels, missing an eye have had fine careers. "Bob Thomson played centre forward for Chelsea in 1915 Cup Final against Sheffield United, yet he only had one eye," writes Warren Lyons. "This was a result of an accident with a firework when he was a child. When asked how he dealt with a ball coming to him on his blind side, Bob would answer: 'I just shut my other eye and play from memory.' Thomson also played for Charlton after the First World War."
And Nigeria's Ogbonnaya Okemmiri won the African Champions League with Enyimba in 2003 and 2004, three Nigerian Premier League titles (2002, 2003, 2004) and two CAF Super Cups (2003 & 2004), reports Michael Haughey.
Last week we looked at the most prolific single seasons in history and the world and his significant other have been in touch since to scream: "GERD MULLER!" at the Knowledge inbox.
"Muller hit 67 for Bayern Munich in the 1972-73 season (36 in the league, seven in the cup, 12 in the League cup and 12 in the European Cup)," wrote Andrew Jackson. "If we take the season as running from August - June, then he also scored a further six for Germany taking him to a total of 73 for the season.
"Assuming that Barcelona reach the Champions League final, and that Messi plays in both of Argentina's games at the start of June, he has a maximum of 18 games to equal that total, so he'd basically need a goal a game which is roughly his average this season."
Matching Der Bomber, though, is an unlikely name. "Kidderminster Harriers striker Kim Casey scored 73 goals in 68 appearances in the 1985-86 season in the Alliance Premier League (now the Conference)," reports Martin Perks.
"I was wondering when the last time a team suffered a five-goal defeat (as inevitable champions-elect Manchester United did against those pesky lot from down the road) on their way to winning the English top division?" wonders Alex Tucker
You have to go back only 12 years to the 1999-2000 season. United were champions, racking up 91 points and finishing 18 clear of second-placed Arsenal. On 3 October, though, they had visited Stamford Bridge where Chelsea, who had lost to Watford and Hertha Berlin the previous month, went two up after 16 minutes through Gustavo Poyet and Chris Sutton. Nicky Butt was then sent off midway through the opening half, and three second-half goals from Poyet, Jody Morris and the unfortunate Henning Berg gave the home side a 5-0 victory. It was the last of Massimo Taibi's four starts for the club.
"At the start of the Copa Libertadores final at Boca Juniors the fans converted their stadium into a garbage dump, by covering the playing field in litter and draping paper streamers over the goal posts with no attempt to clear the debris," notes Ian Simpson. "Can anyone explain the background to this practice?"
"Litter it is not," insists Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla. "It is customary to welcome the team in Argentina with a display of fireworks, bombardas (small bombs that make a big noise but do not actually explode) and confetti – plus paper streamers that are mostly rolls of toilet paper.
"As on the origins of this practice, I'm not certain but the exuberance of Argentina's public displays of emotion go a long way, since the descamisados of Peron in the 1940s," he adds. "Maybe there is some connection, maybe there is an Argentinian with a better explanation. But it is not litter at all."
For thousands more questions and answers take a trip through the Knowledge archive
"Preston North End seem to have been having some problems with moles in the dressing room," writes Tony Cox. "I remember Leeds and QPR also having a few issues with team news leaking out. Anyone else?"
"When the Chelsea goalkeeping coach Christophe Lollichon was sent from the dugout during the first leg against Benfica, it made me wonder what the reaction would be if it had have been team doctor and fans' favourite Eva Carnerio instead," writes Tom Newman. "Has a woman ever been sent off during a men's game?"
"I was just looking at a well known internet encyclopedia page for the 2003-04 Uefa Cup (as you do) and noticed that Eldar Hadzimehmedovic was top-scorer in the competition with six goals for Lyn Oslo, despite only playing a total of 78 minutes," writes Rob Stead. "Putting aside his astounding his record of a goal every 11.666 minutes in the competition, I was wondering if there was a player who could better his record? Has a player ever finished top scorer in a competition despite only playing a half of football?" [Knowledge note: Hadzimehmedovic scored all six in a qualifying-round second leg against the Faroese side NSI Runavik before being withdrawn after 70 minutes. He had played eight minutes of the first leg.]
"On looking at the form of my local football club FC Utrecht a few weeks back it was easy to see they had a team that struggled to motivate themselves for those cold wet Tuesday nights in Roda but are fine against the bigger sides," begins Ruairi Smyth. "A few weeks back Utrecht were hovering just above the relegation zone but with the majority of their points coming against sides in the top six. If you look at the table today they are still only five clear of the relegation play-offs but have managed to win three of four games against the sides in the top two with an aggregate score of 11-6 for Utrecht. Are there any circumstances where a club has been relegated but has had an outstanding record against the top two or three?"
"During the recent Newcastle United and Liverpool clash, I noticed that there was three Newcastle old boys in Liverpool's team, José Enrique, Craig Bellamy and Andy Carroll. Similarly, Danny Guthrie formerly played for Liverpool," writes Mark Harcus. "Add to that, that Kenny Dalglish managed Newcastle for short spell, I count that as five people who have been involved with the opposing team. My questions is this: Is this a record for players and a manager coming up against their former employers and if not what is?"
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