There’s only six Ben Davies! Which name is the most common in football? | Soccer

There are plenty of footballers who share the same name (Alan Smith, Gary Stevens). There are 3 Jamie/James Lawrence’s (retd, Bayern Munich and St Pauli). Are there any names shared by 4 (or more) players?

— Peter Tang (@PeterTang80) June 21, 2022

We’ve covered footballers with identical names playing for the same team before but we’ve yet to delve into the history of professional footballers who have shared the same name. One of the Jamies above is retired, so we’re assuming the question refers to professionals who have shared the same name throughout footballing history. Given how long the sport has been going, we can beat more than four with minimum fuss and, in fact, the first example to trump the above was taken from a period of English football when all of the players were active.

“During the early-to-mid-1990s there were five players with the name Paul Williams active in the Football League,” writes Ed Rostron. “Three of them even had spells at Coventry, though (unfortunately) not at the same time. Paul Williams (born 1965), a forward best known for spells with Charlton, Sheffield Wednesday and Crystal Palace; PW born 1969, a defender who spent a long time at Stockport and Plymouth, with a brief stop at Coventry; PW born 1970, a full-back who made a handful of appearances for Sunderland, Swansea and Doncaster; PW born 1971, a midfielder who had long spells at Derby and Coventry; and PW born 1963, a Northern Irish forward who played for Stockport, WBA, Rochdale and again, briefly, Coventry. A sixth Paul Williams, a defender born in 1962, was a contemporary of the others but made just a solitary appearance for Chelsea in the 1980s.”

Back on to the historical total of identically named professionals, Andy Brook tweets: “Paul Robinson is a name shared by: a goalkeeper for Leeds, Tottenham etc; a left-back for Birmingham and West Brom; a defender for Millwall and Wimbledon; a striker for Newcastle; a midfielder for Grimsby and York; a striker for Scarborough; a left-back for Millwall. So that’s six.” Chris Matterface can go two better with a name that is synonymous with fancy men’s shirts. Eight Paul Smiths have played across England and Scotland.

Kudos to Ben Janeson for going global to bring us 13 Luis Hernándezs but Mike Price has stuck with the most common surname in the UK to find 15 Robert/Bobby Smiths.

Quick Guide

Football’s Bobby Smiths


Scottish forward, born 1848 (Queens Park, South Norwood, Scotland)
English forward, date of birth unknown (Darwen 1891-94)
English half-back, born 1870 (Stoke City)
Scottish forward, born 1907 (Doncaster Rovers)
English football player, born 1912 (Bolton, Huddersfield and also managed Ajax)
English midfielder, born 1923 (Man City, Plymouth, Torquay)
Ireland striker, born 1923 (Bohemians, Toronto)
England striker, born 1933 (Chelsea, Spurs, Brighton)
Canadian midfielder, born 1940 (Vancouver Columbus FC)
English full-back, born 1941 (Barnsley, Chelmsford)
English forward, born 1944 (Scunthorpe, Grimsby, Brighton, Hartlepool)
English full-back, born 1950 (Grimsby, Hartlepool)
USA defender, born 1951 (Philadelphia Atoms, New York Cosmos)
Scottish left-back/midfielder, born 1953 (Hibernian, Leicester)
American midfielder, born 1973 (Columbus Crew)

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Familiar foes at World Cups

“Denmark will play France in the groups for the fourth time in seven World Cups after previously meeting them in 1998, 2002 and 2018,” writes Glenn McConnell. “Has anyone else faced the same team at such a high proportion of World Cups they’ve played at, and what is the most-played tie in the competition?”

Liam Togher is all over this one (as were a number of you). “Nigeria have qualified for six World Cups and played Argentina in the group stage at five of them, 1998 being the exception. Frustratingly for them, they have lost to their familiar South American foes by the odd goal on all five occasions (1-2 in 1994, 0-1 in 2002 and 2010, 2-3 in 2014 and 1-2 again in 2018). Even more gallingly, Marcos Rojo’s late winner in the teams’ concluding group match four years ago took Argentina through at Nigeria’s expense, with the Super Eagles only needing a draw to advance.

“In answer to Glenn’s second question, three ties can lay claim to being the most-played at a World Cup, with seven instalments of Brazil v Sweden (1938, 1950, 1958, 1978, 1990, twice in 1994); Germany v Yugoslavia/Serbia (1954, 1958, 1962, 1974, 1990, 1998, 2010) and Argentina v Germany (1958, 1966, 1986, 1990, 2006, 2010, 2014). Being more pedantic, Brazil-Sweden gets the nod as all seven ties have been in that particular guise. The first four Argentina-Germany clashes came with the latter as West Germany, as did the first five Germany-Yugoslavia meetings. Also, in 2010, Germany played a Serbia team which had a smaller geographical pick than any composition of Yugoslavia, given the emergence of several new republics since the early 1990s.”

More internationals who broke their ducks late

After last week’s lead question, Dennis Kirkegaard has another example of note …

“Peter Schmeichel scored his first and only goal for Denmark back in June 2000 in a friendly against Belgium,” he writes. “It was a penalty-kick and at the time he was 36 and a-half years old.” Kudos for finding a goalscoring keeper, Dennis.

Denmark's goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel scores his first ever goal for Denmark from the penalty spot in the friendly match against Belgium on 3 June 2000.
Denmark’s goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel scores his first ever goal for Denmark from the penalty spot in the friendly match against Belgium on 3 June 2000. Photograph: Lars Moeller/EPA

Knowledge archive

“Algeria’s Africa Cup of Nations semi-final with Egypt will be the fourth match between these teams in a little over seven months,” wrote Ruairi Corr in 2010. “Is that, or if not, what is, the highest number of games between two international sides over one year or less?”

The old rivals from South America can trump the efforts from north Africa by some distance. “Argentina and Uruguay played each other 11 times in 1913 from April to October and once more in December 1912, making it 12 times in the space of a year,” noted Daniel Tunnard.

The United States and Honduras could match Algeria and Egypt’s tally in a far shorter space of time. “Last year, they played each other four times in four months and four days,” wrote Tim Dockery, “twice in World Cup qualifying (6 June and 10 October) and twice in the Concacaf Gold Cup (8 July and 23 July). They also played a friendly on 23 January 2010 making it five games in seven and a half months.”

Knowledge archive

Can you help?

“Brentford have just appointed former England and Fiji Rugby 7s coach Ben Ryan as their director of elite performance,” mails James Doherty. “He appeared on a commemorative 50 cent coin to mark Fiji’s first ever Olympic medal, gold in the 7s at Rio 2016. Have any other footballers, coaches or senior figures ever appeared on currency in celebration of their achievements?”

“England Women played Netherlands last Friday with the England team led by Dutch manager Sarina Wiegman and the Netherlands team led by English manager Mark Parson,” notes Will Unwin. “Are there other examples of international matches with both managers holding the nationality of the rival team?”

Who’s the most prolific goalscorer in women’s football, club and country combined?

— Kári Tulinius (@Kattullus) June 28, 2022

“I recently stumbled across a video of Lev Yashin’s trailblazingly unorthodox style against a bemused England,” writes Rory Beresford. “On further research, I was amazed to read that he saved a barely believable 151 penalties in 406 senior games. Are there solid statistics backing this up? If so, are there any keepers that come close to matching these numbers?”

Is there any way of knowing which player has been sent off in the most number of different ways? Eg violent conduct, two bookings, last man, handball on the line etc?

— Richard Nunney (@richardnunney) June 28, 2022

“USMNT great (and an even better person who is greatly missed) Fernando Clavijo had arguably one of the strangest careers in football,” begins Craig Schroeder. “He earned 62 caps, all after age 34, and started three games at the 1994 World Cup at 38. But the wildest fact is that his last competitive club outdoor match appears to have been in 1984: six years before his first cap (he was was playing indoor professionally and making appearances with the US futsal team from 1984-92). Surely there are no other players that can match this length of time between club appearances and first international cap?”

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