I am not a superstitious person by nature. Let’s make that quite clear. Indeed, I’ve been known to walk under ladders deliberately just to wind people up (although always after a quick check that nobody’s actually atop the thing, with a pot of paint just about to overbalance).
If I worried every time a few grains of salt were spilt in the kitchen, I’d be in a perpetual fret about the ensuing bad luck – although the importance and, therefore, value of salt throughout history might be the rational reason behind that particular superstition.
But what’s the point in having such a rule if there isn’t an exception to it?
And my exception, throwing rational thought out on its ear – with a quick boot up the backside for good measure – is football. And in particular, Manchester City.
Anyone who has read Nick Hornby’s wonderful Fever Pitch will know the syndrome.
There’s a lovely story in there about how, when he was studying at Cambridge, Arsenal fan Hornby and various friends used to watch Cambridge United. And they usually watched them lose. Until, that is, one day one of them bought a pink sugar mouse from a shop on the way to a match. As he was walking out of the shop door, he dropped the mouse on the ground and it broke apart.
That afternoon, United broke their losing sequence. So thereafter, the friends would stop at the same shop before every game, buy a sugar mouse and then let it smash on the ground outside. A winning streak began.
I used to have a pair of ‘lucky’ socks – brown and white stripes, I’d worn them while playing the Wicked Witch of the West in a production of The Wizard of Oz years ago. I don’t know why they remained my ‘lucky’ socks, because they never managed to start a winning streak of more than one game. Perhaps I convinced myself that, if I hadn’t worn them, we’d have lost even more badly than we did?
At one time, I developed a routine of having pasta and baked beans as my pre-match grub. I can’t recall how it started, but it became a habit. Such a flatulence-inducing diet might have contributed to global warming, but it didn’t improve results any more than the ‘lucky’ socks.
Anyway, can you imagine – all the little superstitious routines going on before games, amongst thousands of fans: do some of them contradict others? Who was it who contradicted mine?!
In a fit of close-season enthusiasm, I ordered my new home shirt on Wednesday. And decided, for the first time in three seasons, that I will not get a name on it.
Two years ago, at the start of our bright, shiny new era, I had ‘Sven’ on the back of my away shirt: the first time I’d ever had a named football shirt. The Swede was criminally sacked at the end of the term – despite making vast improvements and seeing us victories over Manchester United twice in a season for the first time since the 1960-70 season.
Last year, in a fit of enthusiasm (and ignoring such a howlingly obvious omen), I bought all three outfield shirts and proudly had the names ‘Wright-Phillips’, ‘Robinho’ and ‘Hamman’ emblazoned on the backs.
Sean went off the boil after his great return. Robinho didn’t seem to like the winter, was accused of sexual assault (and later completely cleared), went walkabout and lost his form, while Didi – in his final season with the club – spent the last few months of the season recovering from a broken toe.
I am not having any more names on my shirts. I jinx those whom I attempt to so ‘honour’.
The Other Half sneakily tried to suggest I should have tried reverse psychology and ordered this new one with Samuel Eto’o’s name on the back, in the sneaky belief that, just as a move to City has become less likely, it might turn things the other way. Sorry. But I’m not falling for that. There are limits to quite how much I want to spend a season’s worth of home games looking a right prat.
So there. No names this season. And I’m going to bring the age of reason into my football experience. No more superstitious nonsense for me.
Although I’ll still remember to wear both of my City rings to matches (the 1970s enamel one on the left hand and the plain silver one on the right), and the Elano t-shirt under my colours when it’s cold enough and a very specific baseball cap with a very specific collection of badges over it …