David Preece: Forget any 'hocus pocus' - poor form can only be ended by what's in our control
If we’re led to believe it, luck is of your own making in football. “The harder you work, the luckier you become” is a phrase you often hear from those who are experiencing a run of the bad kind.
Then again, “The harder you try, the less likely it is to happen” is the paradox to such a notion. In that case, are we just better off somewhere in between?
Or better still, should we all just pack in with the hocus pocus of good fortune and focus on factors within our control? After all, isn’t it all just a matter of positive thinking against negative thoughts that eventually show themselves as self-fulfilling prophecies in the end?
Whatever our overriding outlook on life, or any one particular scenario within it, either proves us to be right or wrong in our belief.
The subject of luck, and more specifically superstition, has been something I’ve long been wanting to write about but one I’ve always held myself back from in fear of looking stupid.
Granted, making a fool of myself was a danger I dabbled with every time I walked onto the football pitch and it never stopped me from doing it that, so let’s not change a habit of a lifetime now.
I mean, it did make me think twice about whether I wanted to play football at times but that’s a whole different column to be written about.
In the afterlife after football, I rarely give any thought to superstition. There just isn’t anything that I want to go so well as that it alters my behaviour or routine in any way. Playing football though, was a different matter.
You name a superstition and I’ll bet you I’ve tried it. Lucky pants, matchday rituals, counting magpies on the way to games and probably a hundred more that you’ve never even imagined. It got to a point where garnering the favour of the gods became more of a hindrance to me than any opposition I ever faced and the funniest thing about it all is that I miss them.
I guess what some may see as mere quirks became a source of comfort to me when performance anxieties got the better of me. I may have said this before (quite possible after hundreds of columns) that the most difficult opponent I ever came up against in football was myself.
It all started as I got in to my teens. The higher the level I was playing at, the more I began to doubt myself. So because I didn’t believe in myself, or perhaps a better word would be trust, I obviously put my trust into something that would give me that confidence.
First it was praying, asking God to make sure I didn’t make a mistake and if anyone followed my career closely, you’ll find this right here as the proof that God undeniably does not exist (on the off chance that God is reading this, I don’t actually mean it).
The superstitions then progressed to lucky charms. As was de riguer in the late eighties, I took a glove bag onto the pitch with me and it was filled with anything I thought would bring me luck; a St Christopher pendant, the other half of a heart pendant given to me by a Norwegian girl and an old pair of gloves that I wore during a long unbeaten run years previously.
You’d assume the older I got, the wiser I got to realising that this was shear nonsense, but no. It went much further than that. I’d read up on athletes having a particular order of dressing themselves so I started my own. I’d strip naked and begin dressing starting with my left sock, then right, underwear, cycling shorts, base layer shirts, left boot, right boot, shirt, shorts and then gloves. Left one first, of course.
Then there were the pre-match meals of rice pudding that I stuck with for years and would always note the hotels who made their own and those who used tinned.
And who could forget about the period where, when possible as the ball was up the other end of the field, I would consciously only step over a white line on the pitch right foot first. I never could understood that one but football, it seems, does crazy things to you.
As mad as it all may look written down like this, like I said, I do miss them because they gave me the positivity that I was lacking in myself. Now that I’m older and almost a different person in the way I look at life, it does make you see how much it all mattered to me.
I’m not sure whether it’s good or tragic that in the scheme of things. it meant far too much to me.
Thankfully, even if it has arrived 30 years too late, I do have more belief in myself that I was desperately looking for then – and hopefully I’ll never need to resort to those kinds of antics again. Touch wood.