"With rumours that David James is hoping to become manager of Portsmouth, and given that he has been selected for Fabio Capello's World Cup squad, would this be the first time a club manager has played in a World Cup finals?" wonders Rich Liddiatt.
Step forward Graeme James Souness, who played for, and captained, Scotland in Mexico in 1986 having been appointed player-manager at Rangers in April of the same year.
Souness was part of the side outplayed by the Danish Dynamite in the opening group game and beaten by West Germany in their second outing. The format meant that Scotland would still have qualified for the second round had they beaten Uruguay in the final group game. Souness was dropped, José Batista was sent off after less than a minute, but a 0-0 draw sent Scotland home.
In 1986 Northern Ireland also had a player-manager in their squad in the shape of reserve keeper Jim Platt. Platt had been appointed Coleraine manager in 1985, but was still part of the squad that went out in the first round in Mexico.
And, perhaps most impressively, there's Gunnar Gren, along with Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm part of the great Gre-No-Li Milan trio of the early 1950s, who returned to Sweden to take over as manager of Orgryte in 1956. And he was still in the hotseat at the old Gamla Ullevi ground in 1958 when, at the age of 37, Gren was a key part of the Sweden side that made it all the way to the final before losing to Brazil.
SAARLAND UBER ALLES"Saarland competed as a team in the qualifying rounds for the 1954 World Cup," writes Graham Clayton. "Have there been any other examples of non-national teams competing in the qualifying rounds of the World Cup?"
That's one mighty can of worms you've opened there, Graham. As Claus Moser notes: "There is a bit of a grey area as to what you consider as a 'nation'. Throughout Fifa's history, there have always been a number of members who were not representing fully recognised states, but rather colonies, dependencies or semi-autonomous territories." And as Vid Gunapala points out: "Saarland was independent of both the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) following the end of WWII. It was on 1 January 1957 that Saarland joined West Germany, in what is sometimes referred to as the Kleine Wiedervereinigung ('small reunification', in contrast with the post-Cold War 'big reunification'). Therefore the team representing Saarland was by no means a 'non-national' entity. For example, it had its own president."
In fact, Vid's email was so wonderfully comprehensive, providing a full list of sides who could qualify for our vague definition of 'non-national', that we might as well (having put his email into table format to give at least a general impression that we're doing some work here) hand this one over to him:
THE REAL WORLD CHAMPIONS"I remember before the last World Cup you discussed who the 'real' world champions were," writes Shane Byrne. "When you last ran the article, it was the mighty Zimbabwe, can I ask who are currently world champions on this basis?"
For those unaware of the Unofficial Football World Championship, dating back to 1872 and the very first international football match (a draw between England and Scotland). England became the first unofficial world champions with a 4-2 over the Tartan Army in 1873 and the title has changed hands in a boxing-style format ever since.
Zimbabwe were deposed as title holders back in 2005 by Nigeria and the crown has since passed through the hands of Romania, Uruguay, Georgia, Scotland, Italy, Hungary, Turkey, Greece, Hungary (again) and Sweden, but the current title holders are Holland, who took the title from the Swedes in November 2008. All of which info, and more, can be found on the rather marvellous Unofficial Football World Championships website.
KNOWLEDGE WORLD CUP ARCHIVE"Apart from Josip Simunic in the recent Australia-Croatia match, has any other player in a World Cup been awarded three yellow cards in a single match before being shown the red card?" wondered Nina Koutts during the 2006 tournament. "If so, who was the referee responsible for this tremendous feat?"
Not exactly, Nina, although Iranian referee Jafar Namdar came mighty close at the 1974 finals. Late on, during an ill-tempered game between Australia and Chile, Namdar booked Ray Richards for time-wasting over a free-kick. Absent-mindedly forgetting he had already booked Richards in the first half, Namdar happily trotted off to leave Richards thinking it was his lucky day.
Ultimately, his efforts to remain inconspicuous failed: four minutes later, an irate Fifa official arrived on the touchline, informing the linesman of Namdar's mistake. Cue some mad flagging, Australian protestation and eventual dismissal for Richards.
For thousands more questions and answers take a trip through the Knowledge archive
Can you help?"Article 26.4 of Fifa's World Cup regulations outlines rules on numbering of players in squads pointing out that the No1 jersey must be allocated to one of the goalkeepers," writes Danny O'Donnell. "This eliminates the possibility of an outfield player having the No1 jersey as was the case with Argentina in 1978 and 1982 when they allocated numbers to the entire squad on an alphabetical basis. I seem to recall that England adopted a similar approach in 1982 with exception of the goalkeepers who had the 1, 13 and 22 jerseys and Kevin Keegan who was allocated the No7 out of the alphabetical sequence. In 1990 Scotland decided that, with exception of goalkeeper Jim Leighton who was No1, to allocate remaining squad numbers on the basis of the number of caps won. This throws up the question of any innovative methods of allocating squad numbers?"
Is Theo Walcott the first player to be left out of a finals squad after scoring a hat-trick in qualifying?" wonders Ally Johnson.
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