"After Leon Osman's call-up I was wondering who is the oldest player to receive an England (excluding goalkeepers)?" asks Tom Curtis.
At 31 Osman may yet have a long and illustrious England career ahead of him, Tom, since England's oldest ever player was the 42-and-a-bit-year-old Stanley Matthews, when he played against Denmark in May 1957. It was his last game for the international side after 23 years and 54 caps and he is still England's oldest goalscorer thanks to his strike against Northern Ireland in October 1956, at 41 years and 248 days.
A few years earlier, in the summer of 1954, Matthews went into the record books as the oldest outfield player to represent England at the World Cup finals, though Tom Finney is England's oldest scorer in the tournament having found the USSR net at 36 years and 64 days in 1958. The records are not quite so daunting in the European Championships, with Stuart Pearce the oldest player to represent England at 34 in that game against Germany in 1996.
Southampton's Dave Watson became the nation's oldest Euros scorer against Bulgaria in November 1979, when he had not long turned 33.
For the record Osman is nowhere near England's oldest outfield debutant, with Leslie Compton making his first England appearance at 38, when England beat Wales in November 1950. The oldest debutant ever was Alec Morten, as we explained in a previous Knowledge that we're too lazy even to copy and paste.
Don't be fooled into thinking those days are gone, though. In September 2010 David Weir played for Scotland against Lithuania at 40 (pipping Jim Leighton's record by 38 days) and in November that year Jari Litmanen became Finland's oldest goalscorer at 39, with a penalty against San Marino (they all count). Over in Singapore, the naturalised striker Aleksandar Duric is still representing his country at the age of 42 – he played 90 minutes in a friendly against India last month which Singapore won 2-0.
NOT SO MELLOW YELLOW
"In two recent games in the Eredivisie (SC Heerenveen v NAC and Heracles Almelo v ADO Den Haag, for those of you taking notes) eight yellow cards were given in a single game without any player being sent off (either by a second yellow or a straight red)," wrote Willem van Schaik last week. "That made me wonder about the following question: what is the highest number of yellow cards in a game without any player receiving a red card?"
"I don't know about the highest number," says Christina Fieger, modestly, "but I can top Willem's eight cards. Last weekend, on 9 November, Mainz beat Nürnberg 2-1 in the German Bundesliga. Ten players received a yellow card (including one on the bench!), but nobody had to leave the field early." Indeed, according to our very own Bundesliga correspondent Raf Honigstein, Nürnberg midfielder Hanno Balitsch was actually in the process of being subbed when he was booked for dissent, so perhaps he left the field too late.
There seems to be a tipping point at which a game with several yellows inevitably involves a red, which is probably why in September 2010, Fulham 2-1 Wolves (eight other yellows) ended with Christophe Berra being sent off. A couple of weeks earlier, though, Wolves had played Newcastle in a game that ended 1-1 and with 12 names in referee Stuart Attwell's book. James Perch, Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton, Andy Carroll and Shola Ameobi were cautioned for Newcastle, while Wolves had Jelle van Damme, Karl Henry, Matt Jarvis, Kevin Doyle, Ronald Zubar, Ade Guedioura and Berra booked. "I don't see us as some dirty, over-physical team," said Mick McCarthy, earnestly.
That is the record as far as we have been able to find, though in 1999 Everton found themselves in hot water with the FA having notched up more than 100 cards in the season, which is probably worth a mention.
The worst offenders were Marco Materazzi and Olivier Dacourt, who were both booked during Leicester's 2-0 win over Everton in August 1998, a game that saw nine players cautioned in total. Everton were also involved when Arsenal went through a particularly dirty phase in the 1996-97 season. Four players on each side were booked when the two met at Goodison Park in March 1997, though the Gunners improved on that the following month, when a 1-1 home draw with Blackburn involved nine bookings. We also recall a game between Manchester United and Chelsea in 2008, in which seven United players were booked (landing them a £25,000 fine). "I did not think there was one bad tackle in it," said Sir Alex Ferguson, though he might have made an exception for the foul by Mikel on Cristiano Ronaldo, which took the tally to eight yellow cards in total.
A TALE OF FIVE CITIES
"Former Serbian midfielder Vladimir Jugovic played for, among other clubs, Red Star Belgrade, Sampdoria, Juventus, Lazio and Inter," so says Bogdan Kotarlic. "It enabled him to participate in no fewer than five derby matches where the teams from the same city were involved (Red Star-Partizan, Sampdoria-Genoa, Juventus-Torino, Lazio-Roma and Inter-Milan). Has any other football player taken part in more derby matches than Jugovic?"
The popular pub quiz answer is that German hair model Christian Ziege also played five derbies, appearing for Liverpool against Everton, Milan against Inter, Bayern Munich against TSV 1860, Tottenham against Arsenal and Middlesbrough against Newcastle and Sunderland. We have also read somewhere that Ray Wilkins played in five back when he was still referring to himself as a fine young man: west London, Manchester, Milan, Glasgow and finally Edinburgh, after coming off the bench for Hibs a few days before moving to Millwall.
But two players have gone one better: Richard Gough has six derbies to his name, including Dundee, north London, Glasgow, Forest v Derby, the Merseyside set-to and San Jose Clash versus LA Galaxy (even if that last one involves a 300-mile trip). "It's like watching Big Brother," Gough said of the Old Firm matches in March 2011. "The product is not great at the minute but you know there is going to be an accident happening." The other is Paul Stewart, who notched up appearances in matches between Spurs and Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton, Crystal Palace and Millwall, Wolves and West Brom, Sunderland and Newcastle and then Stoke v Port Vale. Contrary to popular opinion, he never played for Manchester City against Manchester United.
"What is the shortest time a player has been on the pitch and still been named man of the match?" wondered Graeme Kennedy in 2008.
Unlike the names of goalscorers, substitutes or even players earning yellow and red cards, official men of the match are difficult to record, mainly because there is often nothing official about the decision-makers in this most subjective of accolades.
Corporate sponsors, television audiences and Jimmy Greaves have all been given the task of picking one man from the 22 or more who take to the field. "The once venerable man-of-the-match award gets passed around the multi-platform, sponsor-appeasing world of post-millennia footy like a pyramid of Ferrero Rocher at an ambassador's reception," wrote Simon Hawkins in a blog on the subject in February.
That said, Dan Worth reckons the perennial Knowledge favourite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could be in with a shout, specifically for his 12-minute, four-goal cameo against Nottingham Forest in February 1999, when the deadly Norwegian replaced Roy Keane in the 78th minute and turned United's comfortable 4-1 advantage into an 8-1 rout. Solskjaer never dislodged Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole to earn a regular starting berth that season but was characteristically merciless against Forest, tapping in Gary Neville's cross after two minutes on the pitch and rounding things off on the whistle with an emphatic finish after a Paul Scholes scuff.
In April 2001 Simon Morgan's final appearance – of more than 350 – for Fulham earned him the man-of-the-match award, despite being on the pitch for only 13 minutes. With the then First Division title secured, and leading 2-0 at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Jean Tigana gave the much-loved and long-serving captain a token run-out as he gingerly returned from a 15-month injury lay-off. "His every touch was cheered," writes James Sheedy, "while all other players touching the ball (for either team) were booed. Obviously he was named man of the match."
For thousands more questions and answers take a trip through the Knowledge archive
CAN YOU HELP?
"The mighty Crystal Palace gave their competitors a head start this term, losing their first three fixtures to hold up the entire table," writes John McDougall. "Last week's 5-0 win over Ipswich took them to their rightful place atop the table, 12 [unbeaten] games later. I guess there have been speedier rises from last to first; who holds this record? (and did they maintain it to go on and win that league?)"
"Who is the most prolific striker to have never managed a hat-trick in competitive play?" ponders Finlay Bernard.
"Hello/Ola/Bonjour/Guten Tag/Yia Sou etc etc," chirps Tom Mulhearn. "After checking up on Ashkan Dejagah on Wikipedia – the third Iranian to play in the Premier League – I saw that Fulham's squad consists of 30 players (four on loan) consisting of 24 different nationalities. Is this either the highest number/highest percentage of different nationalities in a squad?"
"Seeing as the media pundits and ex-pros harp on about the evils of zonal marking, have more goals been scored against teams defending set pieces 'zonally' as opposed to man-to-man? If so, how many?" asks Chris Akpakwu.
Send your questions and answers to email@example.com