“If, as seems increasingly likely, Fulham are relegated, next season will be the fifth in a row that we’ve played in a different division,” laments Richard Hirst. “I don’t suppose that’s a record, but does anyone know what is?”
Happily (or disappointingly), Wikipedia has a page for this but it is still worth highlighting the incredible yoyo-ing of Berlin-based BFC Südring between 1950 and 1960.
In 10 seasons they were relegated, promoted, relegated, promoted, relegated, promoted, relegated, promoted, relegated and promoted between the Oberliga Berlin and Amateurliga Berlin. This was a feat matched only by Aris Limassol who boinged up and down between the Cypriot first and second divisions from the 1996-97 season to 2005-06.
But our readers suggest a couple of possible answers that aren’t on the Wiki list. Em Kent names Celta Vigo, who between 1975 and 1983 were relegated, promoted, relegated, promoted, relegated, relegated, promoted, promoted and relegated (nine different divisions in nine seasons). And Jordi Gómez points out that, between 1979 and 1987, Brann were relegated, promoted, relegated, promoted, relegated, promoted, relegated and promoted, before finally staying up.
Gary Cumberland tells us to look no further than Wimbledon. “The Crazy Gang began their crazy journey in the fourth tier in 1977-78, (finishing 13th) before being promoted the following year to the third tier. They were relegated the following season, then promoted, relegated, promoted, promoted and promoted again in successive seasons, before ending up 12th in the second tier with no tier change in sight. (In the following season they were, of course, promoted to the top flight). So that’s seven seasons in seven different tiers.”
Finally, Flor van der Eycken delves deep into European football’s obscurest depths and emerges with the name of Denderhoutem who, starting in 1976, were promoted three times, relegated once and then promoted again, giving them a six-year league-switching stretch that was matched by Manchester City between 1997 and 2003.
Switching to play between the sticks (2)
We’ve had some more examples of retrained goalkeepers …
Here’s Jordi Gómez again: “As it happens in a lot of trivia questions about goalkeepers, the answer is Jorge Campos,” he writes. “At the beginning of his career, struggling to get the starting place in his team as goalkeeper, he asked to play as striker, and on one season he scored 14 goals and fought for top scorer prize. He even played goalkeeper – striker in an international match with Mexico. In a few occasions he started the match as goalkeeper but, as the team struggled to score, an outfielder player would be replaced by the second goalkeeper, so Campos would switch jerseys and move to the forward line.”
We’ve managed to truffle out a further example, too: Benjamin Howard Baker, who played for Blackburn, Liverpool, Chelsea, Everton and the Corinthians between 1913 and 1929. He started out as a centre-half, and was apparently very promising in that position – he played there for Lancashire, for Blackburn’s second XI, and in the last amateur international trial match before the first world war – only for his career to be rerouted during military service. He had no option but to move to a less active position after breaking an ankle in a wartime minesweeping accident, and it was as a goalkeeper that he made a significant impact, making 10 amateur international appearances, and winning two full caps, for England.
“Swansea’s record appearance holder is Wilfie Milne, who played 586 league games between the wars, mainly as full-back (not scoring a goal until his 501st game),” notes Kevin Watts. “He was though restricted to one appearance in his last season until he stepped in at the last minute in March 1937 to play in goal against Leicester, keeping a clean sheet as well. He did so well they kept him in goal for the next match against Nottingham Forest, who rather unsportingly knocked six past him. And that was the end of his fledgling goalkeeping career, and indeed his league career.”
Eliminating two teams from the same city
“During the 1987-88 Uefa Cup, Espanyol reached the final having beaten Milan in the second round and Internazionale in the third before losing to Bayer Leverkusen, who had beaten Barcelona in the quarter-finals” writes Daniel Speda. “Is this the only time both finalists in a tournament have eliminated two teams from the same city?”
“Since the question doesn’t rule out domestic competitions, the FA Cup seemed a good place to start,” suggests Boris Cule. “In 1999, Manchester United beat Fulham, Chelsea and Arsenal on their way to the final, where they met Newcastle, who themselves beat Crystal Palace and Tottenham. If we’re looking for two different Cities, in 1998 Arsenal beat Crystal Palace and West Ham on the way to the final, while their opponents Newcastle eliminated Everton and Tranmere.
“In 1967, Chelsea beat Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday on their way to the final, where they lost to Tottenham, who earlier beat Millwall. Finally, in 1962, Burnley beat QPR, Leyton Orient and Fulham on the way to the final, where they met Tottenham who eliminated Birmingham and Aston Villa (and, for a bonus point, West Brom – not quite from the same City, but still a fun fact).” Will Jefferson has another FA Cup-based response, pointing out that “in 1990-91 Forest beat Crystal Palace and West Ham on the way to the FA Cup final, where they lost to Tottenham, who had beaten Notts County in the sixth round”.
“Which manager is the greatest lower-league manager in the world?” wondered Claudio Alegria in October 2012. “Meaning, who has got the more promotions and/or more clubs promoted?”
“Don’t know if it’s a record, but Dutch coach Frans Körver managed to take six Eerste Divisie (First Division) teams up to the Eredivisie in the Netherlands during his career in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” suggested Johan van Slooten. “FC Wageningen (1980), Fortuna Sittard (1982), MVV (1988 and 1997), VVV (1993) and De Graafschap (1995).”
Körver was beaten by a couple of obvious names from England: Neil Warnock and Dave Bassett. The latter’s seven came with Wimbledon (1981, 1983, 1984 and 1986), Sheffield United (1989 and 1990) and Nottingham Forest (1998); Warnock’s eight were with Scarborough (1987), Notts County (1990 and 1991), Huddersfield (1995), Plymouth (1996), Sheffield United (2006), QPR (2011) and – update – Cardiff (2018).
Can you help?
“Which club has spent the longest time in the same league division, where promotion and relegation are both possible?” muses Alistair Murdoch.
“Jude Bellingham just scored his first goal in the Bundesliga at 17. Is he the youngest Englishman to score in a foreign league?” asks Joe.
“Who are the tallest and shortest footballers to win the World Cup,” asks Chai.
“By my calculations Sheffield United’s loss to Wolves was Aaron Ramsdale’s 50th defeat since the start of the 2019-20 season” writes David Williams. “That equates to 68% of the games he’s played for Bournemouth, United and England U-21s (73 games). Have any other players suffered similar unsuccessful spells? Here are the stats: 22 defeats in 37 games for Bournemouth; 26 defeats in 32 games for Sheffield United; two defeats in four games for the Under-21s.”