“Stoke goalkeeper Josef Bursik joined Lincoln City on an emergency loan for their play-off games,” notes Ben Milner. “He was promoted with Peterborough a few weeks ago (also as an emergency loan). Has any player ever been promoted twice from the same division in the same season?”
Bursik played and kept a clean sheet in Lincoln’s semi-final first leg against Sunderland. He was unavailable after that, because regular keeper Alex Palmer recovered from injury. And Lincoln didn’t go up anyway. But the question is still a good one, and one crack team of unpaid sleuths have dug up a few examples.
“In 2008-09, Charlton loanee Josh Wright played in the Gillingham team which won the League Two play-off final; indeed he set up the winning goal,” says Chris Matterface. “Earlier in the same season he had been loaned to Brentford, who went on to win League Two. But he only played five games, so I am unsure if that would have been enough to gain him a medal…”
Never mind medals, he’s been formally recognised by the Knowledge™, which is far more rewarding. And he has company in the double-promotion pantheon.
“In 2018-19, Blackburn’s Scott Wharton managed the feat in League Two with loan spells at Lincoln and Bury,” writes Dave Evans. The following season he was promoted again while on loan, this time with Northampton Town. Talk about a League Two lucky charm!”
Sébastien Bassong, the Cameroon defender, played 11 league games on loan at Watford from October to December 2014. Watford went on to win automatic promotion, by which time he had returned to his parent club, Norwich. They went up via the play-offs, with Bassong starting the 2-0 win over Middlesbrough at Wembley.
Finally, striker Scott Hogan, then of Aston Villa, achieved a similar feat in 2018-19 after spending some time on loan at soon-to-be-promoted Sheffield United.
Club managers kept waiting for another title
“Atlético Madrid’s La Liga triumph came seven years after their first title under Diego Simeone,” begins Matthew Armstrong. “Has there been a bigger gap between titles for a manager at a single club? (I’m thinking just one spell, so managers who left and came back to win again, like Fabio Capello at Real Madrid, don’t count.)”
Simeone is the longest-serving manager in Europe’s big five leagues, having been with Atlético since December 2011. He won his first La Liga title in May 2014 and repeated the feat 11 days ago. But while seven years is a long time between banquets, it’s not a record.
Rob C has written in with a few examples. Bill Shankly also had to wait seven years between his second and third league titles at Anfield, won in 1966 and 1973. His great friend Sir Matt Busby went one better, or one worse: the Busby Babes won consecutive titles in 1956 and 1957, but the Munich air disaster meant he had to build a new team almost from scratch. There were many dark moments before he won the league again in 1965.
It seems Scottish managers have the necessary resilience for the long haul. As Rit Nanda pointed out, the second world war meant Rangers’ Bill Struth had to wait eight years to win his 15th (yep) league title at the club. Another Scot, George Ramsay, won the league six times during his tenure as Aston Villa manager. The first five came in a seven-season period between 1894 and 1900 – but he had to wait a decade to win it again.
And finally, to Soviet Russia. “Between 1977 and 1988, Konstantin Beskov was at the helm of Spartak Moscow,” writes Dirk Maas. “He guided them to two league titles: in 1979 and 1987.”
Early goals by goalkeepers
“A lot of the reporting on Alisson’s goal for Liverpool against West Brom commented on the ‘last-minuteness’ of it. Surely that’s the least astonishing thing for a goalie goal. What is the earliest time in a game that a keeper has scored from open play?” asks Steve Richards.
The answer to this question is a little unsatisfactory. As literally twos of you pointed out, Asmir Begovic scored after 12 seconds for Stoke against Southampton in 2013. But that came from a zesty punt downfield. Most close-range keeper goals come in injury time, for obvious reasons, though Brad Friedel did score an 89th-minute equaliser for Blackburn at Charlton in 2003-04.
Another first-half goal – though nowhere near as fast as Begovic’s – was scored in the Netherlands 36 years ago. “On 9 November 1985, Cambuur keeper Oskar Zijlstra scored in the 21st minute against Williem II with a kick downfield that sailed into their opponent’s goal,” writes Dirk Maas. “Despite Zijlstra’s goal, Cambuur eventually lost 4-3. I have sent a video of the goal, though I should apologise for the low quality. This wasn’t shown on TV, so the video was made by two Cambuur supporters.”