Any film buffs among you will remember the closing scene of Hitchcock’s film ‘The 39 Steps.’ Based in 1914, the film centres around the murky world of espionage. At its denouement, the hero, Richard Hannay after surviving a series of escapades, is in a music hall. On stage is ‘Mr Memory’ an act who can recall myriad facts at the drop of a hat. Questions are fired at him, and he replies accurately. Hannay however knows that the man’s memory is being used by a secret organisation of spies – called The 39 Steps – to smuggle secret formulae out of the country. Hannay calls out a question. “What is The 39 Steps?” Aware that armed members of the gang are in the theatre, Mr Memory hesitates. Hannay asks again and again. Mr Memory eventually gives way to his professional pride and reveals the secret, at which he is gunned down by an unseen assailant. All very dramatic, I hear you say, but it doesn’t have a lot to do with football. Well, yes and no. And the reason why lies in a few numbers.
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