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Saturday 30 August 2014

Garreth Murphy: Football fans are a foolish superstitious bunch... now where are my lucky socks?

Published 22/04/2014 | 15:42

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Fans hold up scarves during a memorial service to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England April 15, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Staples   (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER ANNIVERSARY DISASTER)
Liverpool fans are growing increasingly nervous as their 24-year wait for a league looks like it could end soon

I have a perfectly sane friend with a respectable job and a loving family.

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In every aspect of his life, he is normal and completely in control  – except when it comes to football-related matters.

He genuinely believes the only reason Liverpool are top of the table is because he has been wearing the same pair of underpants since the Reds started their 11 game winning streak against Arsenal back in February.

The worst thing? I tend to believe him.

You see, I’ve been sporting my lucky green socks since Liverpool started that run against Arsenal.

Not only that, I’ve been adopting the same pre-match rituals. Sitting in exactly the same spot on the couch. Using the same mug for my coffee.

My wife hid my socks last Sunday for health and safety reasons before the match against Norwich – only telling me where they were when the second Norwich goal went in and she could hear the panic in my voice.

Deep down, and despite the best efforts of the Red Men at Carrow Road, a small part of me believes that Liverpool may well have lost that game had my socks’ secret  location not been revealed. (Of course, Raheem Sterling  would no doubt beg differ.)

You see, the superstitions of football fans are as ridiculous as they are varied.

When you emotionally invest in a team, you actually start to believe that you somehow have the power to influence the result.

It is as stupid as it is insulting to the abilities of the athletes who are competing on the field. But it still doesn’t stop us. Show me a fan who doesn’t have his own pre-match rituals and I’ll show you a liar.

It helps that players themselves have their own rituals, from the way in which they dress to the music they listen to and the order that they come out on the field.

One of the greatest players ever to grace the world game, footballer Johan Cruyff used to slap his goalkeeper in the stomach before each match.

Psychologist B. F. Skinner revealed that superstitions develop because our brains try and repeat whatever actions precede success, even if we cannot see how they have had their influence. So rather than try and work out the odds to repeat success, we simply repeat what we did before in the vain – and rather simplistic – hope that it ‘works’ again.

In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix.

It is as ridiculous as it is stupid.

But that doesn’t stop us.

Thankfully we’re not as superstitious as we were 100 years ago. In those times, fear and uncertainty ruled and they bore out the feeling of superstition. Today our sense of order is far greater today. That sense of uncertainty has largely been removed from our lives.

But if Liverpool don’t claim that Premiership trophy, I’ll still be claiming witchcraft.

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