Talismans, rituals, charms, lucky items that you simply cannot do without. Whatever you call them, there are many who incorporate some strange things into a matchday.
It has nothing to do with faith or a lack of, and yet we hold these things and processes as dearly as though it were an ethereal deity.
How do we nominate these lucky things? How do they go from a simple, everyday trinket to a fully blown portal to Lady Luck herself?
Of course, it all resides in our head. However, in the hours before a match and during those fraught ninety minutes, does that stop us clutching that scarf tightly? Does it even enter our head to not walk down a certain road to the stadium as this was the way you walked when we won a certain important game?
We include these foibles and idiosyncrasies into our routine, and they give us a thin blanket against the harsh winds of realism. There are of course, many who scoff at those who treasure such treasures, and walk the long way simply because they believe it to be lucky, but it is far from harmful. It is not deluded to wear your lucky socks when your club plays, and it does not detach yourself from reality. All it does is simply illustrate that you are willing to go an extra mile to obtain a mystifying 1% extra for your team.
Even though your actions have absolutely no bearing on what happens on the pitch.
It is preposterous and relateable all in the same measure. It is quite hilarious when someone states they have a lucky mascot that they have smuggled with them, and when your mate is half an hour late to meeting you as he or she simply must go to a certain chippy before the game, as they have done since we miraculously recovered to beat Hull 3-2 in the Cup Final.
I consider myself to be in cahoots with actuality, and yet I have a lucky pair of Arsenal boxer shorts. Every time I attend a match, I must wear a pair of my Arsenal socks from an extensive collection. About ten of those pairs feature ex-players, and I deliberate for minutes regarding which player would be optimally suited to whichever opponent we are facing. Dennis Bergkamp against Stoke? No, his precious touch would be better suited in the hotbed of a bigger game? Against the brute force of the Potters, the guile and power of Patrick Vieira would be best, or the talismanic leadership of Tony Adams?
Ridiculous really. I’ve probably wasted hours of my life sitting in my bedroom choosing socks that I propose to be lucky. Some of these socks now have holes in, but can I bear to part with them? No. Those were the socks I wore when we defeated Bayern Munich. Those socks I wore when we smashed Villa in the Cup Final.
It doesn’t end there. Teddies, scarves, bracelets, pubs, roads, restaurants, even certain foodstuffs that must be consumed before kickoff are all held up on a pedestal, even though all of us – even those who revere these things so heavily – know it means nothing.
It means something to those who are involved though. Sentiment is a pwerful thing, so if your pal maintains that his stupid looking bobble hat is actually armed with the power to ensure Giroud scores a winner, then let them have it. If you are the person who must consume a Wispa Gold on the buildup to the game – even if you are bilious from the night before – then embrace that facet of you.
Even players themselves embrace these things. Who can forget Laurent Blanc kissing the bald head of compatriot Fabian Barthez in France’s World Cup winning campaign?
If these professional players are of the same mindset, who are we to argue? Is it so bad that some of us think that luck can be bartered with?
The uniqueness is what makes every person. If we all stood firmly on the ground, then it would make for very boring conversations. Objectively, it is also important we have those who shun such beliefs and comfort blankets, so us who have our head in the clouds do not float off entirely.
It may be intrinsically linked with certain parts of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but those stoic people who do not chuck their coins into the wishing well offer are the rope which keeps us tied to the ground. It can quite easily become the most important part of your ritual, even foregoing the match itself.
The majority of superstitious people can easily just have this little part compartmentalised and kept away from the rest, and this is the best way of dealing with such mannerisms.
It makes things interesting, and that person who looks completely straight-laced may just have a certain lucky shirt they wear that they think imbues their team with that little extra luck.
Who are we to argue with that? Let us be honest here, when looking at Santi Cazorla’s perfect free-kick in the Cup Final of 2014, it is clear to all that my socks were responsible for the flight of the ball.
I chose my Thierry Henry socks that day.