“If Liverpool make it to the final of the Champions League they will end up playing every game in every competition they entered this season,” explains Niall Carey. “Has any other team managed this feat before?”
This has happened more often than we realised. Let’s start with a heartbreaking example from the north-east. “In the 1996-97 season, Middlesbrough reached (and lost) the final of both the League Cup (after a replay) and the FA Cup and were relegated from the Premier League,” writes Paul Brack, a single tear rolling solemnly down his cheek. “They hadn’t qualified for Europe, so they played every game in every competition they entered.”
Boro played 54 games in all: 38 in the league, seven in the FA Cup and nine in the League Cup. Alas, a match Boro originally didn’t play – away to Blackburn in the Premier League – ultimately led to them being relegated.
If Liverpool do play every game this season, they will be following in the weary footsteps of their treble-winning team of 2000-01. “Liverpool reached the final of the FA Cup, League Cup and Uefa Cup, winning each competition,” writes Steve Williams. They played 63 times that season: 38 in the Premier League, six each in the FA and League Cups and 13 in the Uefa Cup.
From Liverpool to the Lisbon Lions. As Iain Pearson (and others) points out, Celtic won an unprecedented quintuple in 1966-67. They won Division One (34 games), the Scottish Cup (six games, including one replay), the League Cup (10 games), the Glasgow Cup (three) and, most magically of all, the European Cup (nine). That’s 62 games. For the record, they won 51, lost only three and scored a preposterous 196 goals.
Celtic have a link of sorts to our next answer – the Porto side that beat them in the fractious Uefa Cup final of 2002-03. “In two consecutive seasons (2002-04), Porto played every game in every competition they entered,” writes Alan Gomes. “These were the José Mourinho years: Porto reached the Portuguese cup final in both seasons, plus the 2003 Uefa Cup and the 2004 Champions League finals. Tired legs weren’t too much of an issue for them: except for one of the domestic cup finals, Porto won all those competitions and the Portuguese league in both years as well.”
Mourinho’s team played 54 matches in each season, not including the mind games.
The origins of shithousery
“Where and when was the term ‘shithousery’ first used, and do other languages have a word for it?” asks Brian.
Before we consider the contemporary phenomenon, we should probably look at how the word from which it is derived – shithouse – became part of the English language. According to our own John Ashdown, who wrote about the S-word during the last World Cup, it can be traced back to Scouse slang used in the 1960s. The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang has an entry for “shithouse”, with definitions “an extremely unpleasant individual” and “a coward”.
It had certainly reached the east Midlands by the 1970s. In Duncan Hamilton’s wonderful book Provided You Don’t Kiss Me, he talks about Brian Clough’s penchant for using the word. “The phone rang. ‘Where are you, shithouse?’ asked Clough. (He used the word ‘shithouse’ as frequently as other people use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. ‘It’s an affectionate term,’ he’d explain – though he didn’t always use it that way.)” It also appears in most of the Clough stories told by Mark Crossley in his hilarious Undr the Cosh interview.
Jack Charlton was equally fond of the phrase. In 1990, during a prescient observation about how the media might ruin Paul Gascoigne, he said “Journalists … they’re all shithouses them anyway.” A couple of years earlier, he said during an interview there was no room for “shithouses” in his Republic of Ireland squad.
John Hartson, then at Arsenal, was sent off against Middlesbrough in January 1997 after calling the referee, Mike Reed, “a shithouse”. But the neologism of shithousery only emerged in the 21st century. “The word does not (yet) feature in the Oxford English Dictionary,” writes the lexicographer John Williams, “but taking the ever-excellent Jonathon Green’s Dictionary of Slang as a baseline, we see that his earliest citation is from 2014, with Nicolás Otamendi as the alleged culprit.
“As this is a Twitter citation, I looked back further. The first football personality accused of shithousery appears to be Arsène Wenger in 2011, the accusation coming from The Guardian’s own Daniel Harris. However, the very earliest citation I could find (2009) is from another branch of the entertainment industry …”
It started to become a wider part of the football lexicon in the 2010s, most notably when Crystal Palace “bantered Arsenal off for 90 minutes with shithousery” in August 2014, according to one Gunners fan. Arsenal actually won that game 2-1, so goodness knows what he’d have said had they lost.
Footballers named after politicians (2)
In last week’s Knowledge we looked at footballers who have been named after politicians. And there are plenty more …
“Bismarck got 13 caps for Brazil in what admittedly was not a vintage era, and was in their squad at Italia 90,” writes Pádraig McAuliffe. “He’s named after the 19th century statesman Otto von Bismarck.”
Will Van der Byl points out that the former Wolves and Huddersfield winger, Rajiv van La Parra, is named after the former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, while Andy Hyans explains that the Southampton and Scotland forward Che Adams is named after Che Guevara. “My mum just really liked the name,” Adams told The Guardian back in 2019.
And then there’s Sagi Burton, a defender who played for Port Vale and Peterborough United among others. “Osagyefo Lenin Ernesto (Sagi) Burton might have the record as he is named after three,” notes Barry McCarthy. “Osagyefo was a title for Kwame Nkrumah, the first post-independence leader of Ghana. Lenin is the obvious one and Ernesto is Che Guevara’s actual first name.”
“Have any players ever used a corner flag to attack an opponent?” enquired Pedro Salinas in 2007.
Step forward Canada’s Paul Peschisolido, who flipped a corner flag into an El Salvador player’s face during a World Cup qualifier in 1997, and duly picked up a red card for his troubles. “I was kicked a few times and the referee wasn’t giving anything, while every challenge we made seemed to result in a foul,” he explained afterwards. “I was getting very annoyed and frustrated so I decided to elbow one of their players. It was right in the corner and in fact I elbowed the corner flag into his face.”
Martin Keown managed the next best thing in January 2002, chucking a corner flag into the stands during Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at Elland Road. Early in the game Keown conceded a corner; as he got up he grabbed the flag and casually lobbed it behind him into the front rows of fans. Despite uproar from the supporters, the FA eventually decided he had not intended to hit them, and did not enforce any punishment.
Can you help?
“Have two teams in the top flight ever played the first of their home-and-away matches against each other as late as May? Villa and Burnley are yet to play each other in the Premier League this season and are scheduled to play on 7 May and 19 May,” notes David Tanner.
“Having recently discovered that ex-Southampton player Jo Tessem is still appearing (semi) regularly at the age of 50 for Hythe & Dibden in the Wessex League, are there older ex-pros still plying their trade in the lower leagues?” asks Chris Williams.
“Two questions inspired by the wonderful world of League One,” begins Michael Peters. “Sunderland won three matches in a row by a single goal, and in each case, the winning goal came in the 89th minute or later. Has any team ever had a longer consecutive run of late winners? And in MK Dons’ 3-2 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, the first four goals were scored after 10, 20, 30 and 40 minutes, respectively. Can any match boast a longer series with the same interval?”