Suarez And Sturridge Heading For Record Numbers

Never before have two players from the same club finished outright first and second in race to be the top goalscorer in the top flight. They could be record breakers...

Last Updated: 26/03/14 at 10:12 Post Comment

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As Mediawatch pointed out on Monday in relation to Jamie "Mystic" Redknapp, it will clearly be no surprise if Luis Suarez scores the seven more goals he requires to become the highest goalscorer in a season since football was invented in 1992. Peering further back, into the game's dark ages, though, and you can find some less familiar landmarks that the Uruguayan - and his Liverpool partner Daniel Sturridge - can reach.

The self-inflicted handicap of missing the first five league games for biting Branislav Ivanovic should not be held to Suarez's advantage should he fall short of the 34 managed by Newcastle's Andy Cole in 1993-94 and Blackburn's Alan Shearer a year later, but there is one caveat in the Liverpool striker's favour should be fail to eclipse them. Cole and Shearer were playing in a 22-team division; surpassing the 31 achieved by Cristiano Ronaldo (2007-08) and Shearer (1995-96) would be well-worth applauding, as a modern record in what is now a 38-match game.

Football is an historic game, though, not merely a broadcast-live-and-exclusive one, and there are other achievements worth recalling now, even as we acknowledge that the sport has changed in ways that complicate comparisons with different eras. There was an explosion in goalscoring after the 1925 change in the offside law, which meant you needed only two defenders not three between you and the goal when the ball was played, an innovation to which attacks reacted far faster than defences. There is no way that Suarez - or anyone else, ever - will be able to exceed William "Dixie" Dean's record 60 goals from 1927-28, nor the marks of 49 (Pongo Waring, 1930-31), 44 (Dean in 1931-32) and 43 (Ted Harper of Blackburn in 1925-26 and Dave Halliday of Sunderland in 1928-29) that follow on the all-time list.

There is an earlier Evertonian, though, whom Suarez could just about reach: Bert Freeman, who scored 38 in the 38-game campaign of 1908-09. This remains the top-flight record in a season of this length (which must be the earliest known sighting of the anti-Ronaldo conspiracy).

Football is not an individual sport and any record will ring a touch hollow if Suarez and his team-mates cannot secure a first league title since 1990. Still, football is about entertainment and no one can deny that Brendan Rodgers is putting out a highly watchable team (even if Glen Johnson takes it a bit far). Should they reach their target, then it will owe so much to Suarez's partnership with Sturridge. And as a pair they have in sight a unique goalscoring feat.

It is now highly unlikely that the England man will finish top of the scoring charts but he may well come second. Despite his goal at Cardiff his advantage over Yaya Toure was cut to three by the Ivorian's hat-trick against Fulham and two by Tuesday's events at Old Trafford, but the odds are that Sturridge will finish as runner-up to a clubmate. So it seemed sensible to check when this last happened.

Andy Cole came close to this in Manchester United's treble season, scoring one fewer than top-of-the-charts Dwight Yorke; the problem is that the Trinidadian was level on 18 with Michael Owen and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, so Cole was only fourth equal. No one further back in the Premier League years has come particularly close. Nor did anyone in 1991-92, 1990-91, 1989-90...

The early Sixties seemed promising: the Ipswich championship-winning due of Ray Crawford and Ted Phillips were suggested, but Derek Kevan of West Brom was level on 33 with the former, five ahead of fourth-placed Phillips. Tottenham's Double side a year earlier scored more league goals than anyone - but Jimmy Greaves was not yet at White Hart Lane and banged in 41 for Chelsea. Spurs' top two were fourth and 12th in the charts.

Heading back, the Second World War was reached without success, and then the First World War. Just when it seemed to be beyond anyone, one such duo were finally found, then another, then a third. But all three pairings offer Suarez and Sturridge the chance to better them.

In 1905-06, Albert Shepherd of Bolton won the golden clog with 26 goals over 38 games, one goal ahead of his team-mate Wattie White - and also Birmingham's Billy Jones.

In 1892-93, Johnny Campbell became the first man to reach 30 goals (in a 26-game season), his 31 being 12 ahead of his Sunderland team-mate Jimmy Hannah - and also Everton's Fred Geary.

And in 1888-89 John Goodall top-scored with 21 - one short of a goal a game - and his Preston team-mate Jimmy Ross was tied for second on 18 with Aston Villa's Albert Allen.

So it has been done - but always with a share of second place. The feats of Suarez and Sturridge are far more vivid than mere numbers but they could become uniquely, statistically inseparable if their double act can keep it up for eight more games, starting against Sunderland. Even if they would swap this record for a certain piece of silverware...

Philip Cornwall

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